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Michael Schug
IU Medical Center

Last modified: Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New IU Simon Cancer Center Web site section helps patients, families

March 3, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS -- For some cancer patients, the soles of their feet and the palms of their hands burn or tingle, while others may become forgetful because of some types of chemotherapy. Patients' family members also can feel anxious and concerned about their loved one's well-being.

Both share a need for quick answers or more detailed information about a broad range of topics involving diagnosis, treatments, or unexpected symptoms.

A new section of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center's web site,, helps patients and their families find information about a variety of topics in an easily accessible format.

In the symptom management section, for example, people can learn about anemia, dry mouth, nausea and shortness of breath.

Overall, according to Anna McDaniel, a professor at the IU School of Nursing and a researcher with the IU Simon Cancer Center, the section "makes information more accessible to the public as well as patients. It has been designed so there is a clearly defined way to access quality, or evidence based, information."

Such information is beneficial for patients. "Research has shown that having access to good information can increase coping in cancer patients and lead to better treatment outcomes," McDaniel said.

McDaniel received a $250,000 grant from Indianapolis-based Walther Cancer Foundation in 2007 for the project. She and others from the IU schools of nursing and informatics and the cancer center worked together to create the section, which made its debut Feb. 23.

The new section is dedicated to Dr. Harold Burdette, a visionary leader committed to eliminating the burden of cancer in Indiana.

McDaniel and others are now testing the section's next phase, which takes symptom management to an interactive level.

Patients will log into a secure system to answer questions about any side effects they might be experiencing from chemotherapy. They will rate their symptoms on a scale of zero to 10. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, the patient will be directed to information on the Internet, or his or her oncologist will be notified.

Twenty patients are currently being recruited into this test phase.

"The unique aspect of this is that it will connect the patient and the health-care provider," McDaniel said. "Not only does the system give patients useful information about how to help themselves during chemotherapy, it increases communication with oncology doctors and nurses."