With spring already underway, Australian women are being asked to spring into action and take charge of their health with the launch of Australia's first iPhone application to help women of all ages become more breast aware.
The first of its kind in Australia, Dr K's Breast Checker will help prompt women to conduct regular self-breast checks with its unique interactive tools helping identify any changes in their breasts, as well as automated reminders for monthly breast checks. The application also provides important information on what to do if a change is found.
Developed in consultation with breast health specialists from the Breast Cancer Institute as well as leading breast cancer support charities, the McGrath Foundation and the Breast Cancer Foundation of Western Australia, Dr K's Breast Checker is the latest tool to help women to take control of their health and become breast aware.
Dr Kath Giles, a Perth-based doctor otherwise known as Dr K, came up with the concept for the iPhone application after realising there was a need to reach people more broadly with the breast awareness message in a way in which they feel comfortable.
"With the busy lives that we lead today, it's easy to forget what you felt or saw the last time you checked your breasts. It's also well-known that early detection of breast changes gives women the best opportunity for successful treatment if the changes are related to breast cancer.
"Over 1.5 million iPhone, iPod Touch and iPads are currently being used in Australia and with an iPhone application for just about everything, I saw an opportunity to help educate women on how to be more breast aware by developing an application with an interactive guide on how to do their breast check, as well as a mechanism that helps track changes found from previous breast checks, advising them to see their GP if they find a change. It also serves as an automatic reminder for these women to do their monthly breast checks, getting them into a positive health routine.
"With input from a number of breast health specialists and working with leading support and awareness breast cancer charities, the McGrath Foundation and the Breast Cancer Foundation of Western Australia, I believe we have developed an application which will be easy to understand, accessible and provides solid advice to women on how to conduct a breast check. More importantly, it tells them to see their GP as soon as they find a change.
"It was also important to us that a portion of the sale of the product is donated back to breast cancer support services. 55c from the sale of each Dr K's Breast Checker iPhone application will be shared between two amazing charities, the McGrath Foundation and the Breast Cancer Foundation of Western Australia," said Dr K.
The McGrath Foundation raises money to place McGrath Breast Care Nurses in communities right across Australia as well as educating young women to be breast aware, while the Breast Cancer Foundation of Western Australia aims to be a light of inspiration and hope to all affected by breast cancer through support, education and awareness.
The McGrath Foundation's Tracy Bevan believes venturing into the digital age is a necessary step. "With the McGrath Foundation's strong online support base through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Foursquare, we believe Dr K's Breast Checker is another great way for people to receive the breast awareness message and make it a part of their regular health check routine.
"Jane believed strongly in educating young women to be breast aware because of her own diagnosis at just 31 and we believe Dr K's Breast Checker will provide women with the tools to feel comfortable with doing regular breast checks, and more importantly, telling them what to do if they find a change, as early detection can mean more effective treatment," said Tracy.
General Manager of the Breast Cancer Foundation of WA, Donna Rendell, believes that taking breast cancer education to women across Australia using new technologies in a manner that can be easily used in today's tech-savvy world is the future for health promotions.
"We have seen through our extensive service provision within the community, and results from online education campaigns, that Australians are thirsty for trustworthy breast cancer information. With so much information available, providing a tool based on evidence, rather than urban myth, and linking the community to relevant service providers is vital."
Dr K's Breast Checker iPhone application is available for download from iTunes for $2.49, with 55c from the sale of each application shared between the McGrath Foundation and the Breast Cancer Foundation of Western Australia.
Visit iTunes at www.apple.com/au/itunes and search Dr K. Alternatively, visit www.mcgrathfoundation.com.au or www.breastcancer.org.au and click the Dr K's Breast Checker icon to be redirected to the purchase point.
Question What features does Dr K's Breast Checker have?
Dr. Kath Giles: Dr K's Breast Checker guides a woman through the best way to check her breasts and be breast aware.
Question Does the application show woman how is best to check their breasts for changes?
Dr. Kath Giles: Yes, it guides a woman through how to feel her breasts and allows her to record any lumps, that she might feel in her breast. Obviously it is not only the lumps that can indicate breast cancer, it is also other changes that are visible to the woman which are things like changes to her nipples or changes to the skin of the breast, which is also very important. Changes to the breast can indicate breast cancer without actually having a lump.
The program has a series of five questions that guides the woman through what to look at and to see if there are any changes in the breast. Once the woman has gone through the check the application then stores the information in the history of the application and the next time the woman comes to check if there are any different answers or she puts in any different lumps or any changes to lumps that are already in the program then the application will automatically tell her that she needs to go see the doctor.
Question Does the application remind females that it's time to check their breasts again?
Dr. Kath Giles: It does do this as well.
Question If so, how often?
Dr. Kath Giles: The good thing is the interval between the ideal time between checks is different for every woman so the program allows woman to select when they want to be reminded to check their breasts, again.
Question How much is Dr. K's Breast Checker?
Dr. Kath Giles: $2.49.
Question Why did you originally decide to create an iPhone application?
Dr. Kath Giles: Our lives are so busy today and breast awareness is one of the key things for early detection of breast cancer and the early detection leads to far better treatment and a better outcome for the woman. Having said that, with the lives we lead it's very difficult to remember to check your breasts, let alone remember what you felt the last time you checked them. This application offers woman an automatic way; one to remember to check their breasts and two because it keeps a history of the size of the lumps it automatically indicates if there has been a change and therefore sends the woman off to her doctor, as quickly as possible.
Question How did you go about creating the application?
Dr. Kath Giles: I worked in partnership with Richard Johnston and he is the creator behind a sweep of iPhone apps called LingoPal. Dr. K's Breast Checker was developed completely separate to LingoPal. Richard Johnston was an iPhone application developer and we have worked on Dr. K's Breast Checker together.
Question How did you ensure that the program was easy to understand, for all females, Australia wide?
Dr. Kath Giles: I developed the program in collaboration with the McGrath Foundation and the Breast Cancer Foundation of Western Australia, I was very lucky to have both of them on board. It was a long process but we ensured that everything in the application is along the guidelines that are set out by the peak health bodies within Australia because there is perhaps some controversy around breast awareness, not necessarily in Australia but particularly other countries, around the world where they have different guidelines. We made sure that we created the application exactly along with the Australian guidelines. We also had Breast Awareness experts and specialists who also had input into the application after they reviewed the program.
Question Can you talk about the importance of the 55c donation from the sale of each application with the McGrath Foundation and the Breast Cancer Foundation of Western Australia?
Dr. Kath Giles: We have been very fortunate to work alongside the McGrath Foundation and the Breast Cancer Foundation of Western Australia and both of those charities do fantastic work in terms of supporting woman, with breast cancer. Also, both of these foundations back a lot of initiatives that increase breast awareness within the community. By being able to donate proceeds from the sale of Dr. K's Breast Checker we are very happy to be able to help support the McGrath Foundation and the Breast Cancer Foundation of Western Australia in the wonderful work that they do.
Interview by Brooke Hunter