Cancer patients’ and survivors’ perceptions of the calm app: Cross-sectional descriptive study

Jennifer Huberty, Megan Puzia, Ryan Eckert, Linda Larkey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: There is a need for tools to decrease cancer patients’ and survivors’ long-term symptom burden. Complementary strategies, such as meditation, can accompany pharmacologic therapy to improve symptoms. Although support programs with targeted content have wider reach, higher adherence, and greater impact, there are no consumer-based meditation apps designed specifically for cancer. Objective: This study aimed to gather information to advise the development of a cancer-specific meditation app in a small convenience sample of cancer patients and survivors who currently use the Calm app. Methods: Adult cancer patients and survivors who are Calm users (N=82) were recruited through the Daily Calm Facebook page. Participants completed a Web-based survey related to Calm app use and satisfaction, interest in and ideas for a cancer-specific Calm app, and demographic characteristics. Open-ended responses were inductively coded. Results: Participants were aged between 18 and 72 years (mean 48.60 years, SD 15.20), mostly female (77/82, 94%), white (65/79, 82%), and non-Hispanic (70/75, 93%), and reported using Calm at least 5 times per week (49/82, 60%). Although rates of satisfaction with current Calm components were high (between 65/82, 79% and 51/81, 63%), only 49% (40/82) of participants used guided meditations that they felt specifically helped with their cancer-related symptoms and survivorship, and 40% (33/82) would prefer more cancer-related content, with guided meditations for cancer-specific anxieties (eg, fear of recurrence; n=15) and coping with strong emotions (n=12) being the most common suggestions. A majority of participants (51/82, 62%) reported that they would be interested in becoming a member of a Calm cancer community (eg, in-app discussion boards: 41/46, 89%; and social media communities: 35/42, 83%). Almost half of the participants (37/82, 45%) reported that they would benefit from features that tracked symptoms in concurrence with app usage, but respondents were divided on whether this information should be shared with health care providers through the app (49/82, 60% would share). Conclusions: Responses suggest ways in which the current Calm app could be adapted to better fit cancer patients’ and survivors’ needs and preferences, including adding cancer-specific content, increasing the amount of content focusing on coping with strong emotions, developing communities for Calm users who are cancer patients and survivors, and including features that track cancer-related symptoms. Given differences in opinions about which features were desirable or would be useful, there is a clear need for future cancer-specific apps to be customizable (eg, ability to turn different features on or off). Although future research should address these topics in larger, more diverse samples, these data will serve as a starting point for the development of cancer-specific meditation apps and provide a framework for evaluating their effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere16926
JournalJMIR Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Cancer
  • Cancer survivors
  • Consumer behavior
  • Health
  • Meditation
  • Mental health
  • Mindfulness
  • Mobile apps

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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