With the use of a kid-friendly touch screen computer assessment tool, children who suffer from cancer are more likely to weigh in on their symptoms.

According to Christina Baggott, a trained oncology nurse who alongside Norwegian colleagues designed a program called Sisom, found that colorful cartoon characters and interactive technology increasingly assist children in disclosing their symptoms.

“From a clinical standpoint, it’s very important to catch these symptoms early, so we can intervene at an early stage,” Baggot said.

With a traditional checklist such as the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale (MSAS), individuals are instructed to rate their experiences with a number of symptoms. Baggot observed with children, discussing certain symptoms with parents, physicians, clinicians and doctors, they become quiet and uncommunicative. 

In hopes of triggering conversation among children, their physicians and parents, Baggot worked with 100 pediatric center patients and their parents at University of California, San Francisco's Benioff Children's Hospital and Stanford Medical Center in order to compare the answers between the checklist and the computer program. Baggot scrutinized a variety of comparisons including how a child's response differed from the parent's as well as how pediatric response compares to the parent.

“Analyzing the data is complicated because it is being collected from the symptom checklists and from the computer software, entered into a central database,” Baggott said.

With the help of Consultation Services, a program that is a part of UCSF Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), Baggot and her colleagues were able to efficiently process the information that the children and parents provided via checklist and computer program.

Baggot discovered that children were able to answer a considerable amount of concerns using Sisom, compared to the checklist.

“Sisom may promote children to acknowledge issues and may lead to an improved understanding of pediatric oncology patients’ emotional and physical concerns,” she said.

Currently Baggot is assessing elements such as a child' age, gender, spoken language and time of diagnosis.