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Helping answer ?s about prostate cancer

July 8, 2009
Gary Papa

Gary Papa

The recent death of 6ABC sports director Gary Papa after a five year battle with prostate cancer reminds us that it is the most common non-skin cancer in America, affecting 1 in 6 men according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation.  In fact, a new case is diagnosed every 2.7 minutes and a man dies from prostate cancer every 19 minutes.

When a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, he is faced with complex decisions about treatment and formulating adequate questions for the doctor is often difficult.  To help empower men facing these difficult decisions, Temple Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Brian Butz–with the help of a $200,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute–collaborated with Fox Chase Cancer Center to develop an interactive, computer-based program to provide comprehensive information to prostate cancer patients.  Additional support came later from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and Temple.

The program, called Prostate Interactive Education System, or PIES, presents relevant disease and treatment information tailored to the patient’s information seeking preference.  It uses an interactive expert system that was previously developed by Butz for use as a tutorial program for electrical and computer engineering students.

The entrance screen to PIES

The entrance screen to PIES

“There is a need for patient information, particularly with prostate cancer, because the patient has the option of several treatment methods such as surgery, radiation or seed implantation,” says Butz’ collaborator Michael A. Diefenbach, formerly with the Fox Chase Cancer Center and now director of behavioral research at The Barbara and Maurice A. Deane Prostate Health and Research Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. “There are several equivalent

Brian Butz

Brian Butz

treatment options, all of which can potentially have a significant impact on the quality of life of the patient. Right now, a lot of patients seek out information from a variety of different sources. They go to a web page, they go to the library, talk to friends and family. What our program does is combine a lot of information from various sources and present it in an easy-to-understand, concise manner.”

The PIES program is modeled as a “virtual” health center consisting of a number of rooms, including a reception area, physician offices, consultation rooms, a library and a group meeting room.

“It is very interactive and easy to maneuver,” Butz said. “For example, if a patient wants to talk to a physician, he can use the software to talk to a urologist or a radiation oncologist and then ask the physician questions, which the program will answer. They’ll be able to go to a virtual library and read about things or find Web sites where they can go and get additional information.”

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