Use of mental health apps by patients with breast cancer in the united states: Pilot pre-post study

Philip I. Chow*, Shayna L. Showalter, Matthew Gerber, Erin M. Kennedy, David Brenin, David C. Mohr, Emily G. Lattie, Alisha Gupta, Gabrielle Ocker, Wendy F. Cohn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Nearly half of the patients with breast cancer experience clinically significant mental distress within the first year of receiving their cancer diagnosis. There is an urgent need to identify scalable and cost-efficient ways of delivering empirically supported mental health interventions to patients with breast cancer. Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of in-clinic recruitment for a mobile phone app study and to evaluate the usability and preliminary impact of a suite of mental health apps (IntelliCare) with phone coaching on psychosocial distress symptoms in patients recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Methods: This pilot study adopted a within-subject, 7-week pre-post study design. A total of 40 patients with breast cancer were recruited at a US National Cancer Institute–designated clinical cancer center. Self-reported distress (Patient Health Questionnaire-4) and mood symptoms (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System depression and anxiety scales) were assessed at baseline and postintervention. App usability was assessed at postintervention. Results: The minimum recruitment threshold was met. There was a significant decrease in general distress symptoms, as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety, from baseline to postintervention. Overall, participants reported high levels of ease of app use and learning. Scores for app usefulness and satisfaction were reinforced by some qualitative feedback suggesting that tailoring the apps more for patients with breast cancer could enhance engagement. Conclusions: There is a dire need for scalable, supportive interventions in cancer. The results from this study inform how scalable mobile phone–delivered programs with additional phone support can be used to support patients with breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere16476
JournalJMIR Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Breast cancer
  • MHealth
  • Mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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