‘If I Were Tom’ uses technology to untangle prostate cancer treatment options

Tom is a man in his early 70s who has received a prostate cancer diagnosis. He freaks out. This was not in the plan, how could it be, what’s going to happen?

Some men might at this point keep their anxieties to themselves and live through the next stages of diagnosis and treatment in a state of bewilderment and fear.

But a new interactive website called If I Were Tom’ – puts the decision-making, control and knowledge about prostate cancer back into the hands of those who have received the diagnosis.

It’s an innovative way to both educate and assure men about their options for a cancer that  effects men more than any other cancer in Australia.

The University of British Columbia’s Men’s Health Research program developed the website as an antidote to the perceived lack of information about prostate cancer and the many options facing men who receive a diagnosis.

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"In terms of health literacy, there is a long history of people saying men are not up to speed," says UBC Professor John Oliffe. "This includes their knowledge when it comes to understanding prescription drugs and dosages, whether they know the stages of a disease and how they apply the knowledge they have."

 If I Were Tom provides men with easy-to-digest health information that will help them make informed decisions, and ‘normalise’ their experience through a series of relatable videos and questionnaires.

The website narrative starts with Tom receiving news of a positive biopsy. He’s in shock and goes through the day in a daze. After the video, the viewer is asked a question– ‘What would you do if you were in Tom’s position?’ followed by some multiple choice answers.

This format continues, as Tom progresses from anger to fear, to asking a lot of questions in silence. “Is my life going to be the same after this treatment, is there a light at the end of this tunnel?” he asks.

He finds his way ‘back in the game’ and strives to stay positive. “I have good days and bad days and that means I’m normal. I work at staying positive.”

Along with exploring Tom’s options – and asking themselves what they would do – viewers of the website learn that they have choices, and that prostate cancer has many pathways to managing the condition.

While in Canada, 96% of men are alive 5-10 years after their prostate cancer diagnosis (95% in Australia), research coordinator Cherisse Seaton said low health literacy presented a significant risk factor. With so many options for treatment available, men sometimes are confused as to the best plan.

"Not all prostate cancers are aggressive and it can be challenging to predict if a patient has a slow-growing cancer or one that is aggressive. The patients have to decide what type of treatment course to follow. To do that they need to be well informed and understand of all the options," she says.

As well as presenting interactive information for treatments and side effects, the website enables the viewer to collate their preferred response to prostate cancer in a Plan that can be packaged in multiple formats for on-going referencing.

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Check out If I Were Tom online

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