Pain is a common symptom experienced by adolescents with cancer and often occurs outside of the hospital environment. Adolescents with cancer are in a unique developmental stage that may mean pain characteristics (for instance pain severity), the impact of pain, and pain treatment outcomes are different in adolescents compared to children and adults. This means that unique strategies are needed to address the problem of cancer pain in adolescents.
In response, our group developed and tested the PainSquad+ pain management smartphone app. This app provides adolescents with pain management support the moment they are in pain, including when they are not in the hospital. To create PainSquad+ we (1) reviewed current paediatric cancer pain research, (2) held a meeting with experts in cancer, pain and smartphones to decide on the needed PainSquad+ features, (3) developed a clinical map detailing how PainSquad+ will help adolescents in pain and (4) conducted both usability and feasibility testing with the app.
Our feasibility study found that after using the PainSquad+ app for 28 days, adolescents with cancer experienced significantly less intense pain and pain interfered less with activities of daily living. The teens also had suggestions for ways to improve the app. A large multi-centred randomized controlled trial is currently being conducted across Canada.