Health

Life-saving App Aims to Reduce Cancer Deaths in Cambodia

Inspired after family members died from cancer, the team behind award-winning app, CancerCo., is aiming to reduce the number of cancer-related deaths by increasing awareness and information surrounding treatment for the disease.
CancerCo team wins an award for being a business of young entrepreneurs developing social businesses that contribute to sustainable development goals. Picture: Impact Hub Phnom Penh
CancerCo team wins an award for being a business of young entrepreneurs developing social businesses that contribute to sustainable development goals. Picture: Impact Hub Phnom Penh

A team of university students has created a pioneering app to help cancer patients seek treatment on time, reducing the number of unnecessary deaths in Cambodia.

Sin Hourt, team leader and founder of CancerCo., is a Year 3 student majoring in Business Management at Paragon University.

Hourt is from Phnom Penh and said his app aims to help patients seeking treatment with the right medics. The 21-year-old added that his team was inspired to create the app after seeing cancer is the major cause of death in Cambodia.

Hourt’s distant relative and CancerCo. team member's grandma died of cancer. They discovered they had the disease when it was already at a serious stage of third and fourth.

Sin Hourt, co founder of CancerCo. Picture: Impact Hub Phnom Penh
Sin Hourt, co founder of CancerCo. Picture: Impact Hub Phnom Penh

He said many cancer patients lack information about their illness, how to find treatment in the early mild stage, and how to prevent it.

Hourt wants to decrease cancer death rates by providing information via CancerCo. Despite it not yet being officially launched, it won a $3,000 award in March from Smart Axiata for being a business of young entrepreneurs developing social businesses that contribute to sustainable development goals.

“In Cambodia, when people find out that they have cancer, most of the time, there are many mental crises, especially for themselves and their family members,” said Hourt. “The patients are under a lot of pressure when they realize they have cancer because cancer is a serious sickness."

“No one understands their situation, even family members. It is also difficult for family members to accept the truth. Therefore, we created one community that brings cancer patients together, like a community on Facebook, to share their situation and let them know there are many people affected by cancer and you are not alone.”

CancerCo. will also provide prevention and detection through short articles, videos and questions and answers relating to a particular subject, especially one giving basic information for users of a website.

“If our citizens have early-stage cancer, they will be able to find quick and timely treatment, along with realizing who specific cancer professional doctors are and where the hospital is. As a result, the rate at which they are going to recover is higher,” said Hourt.

He added that through market research and discussions with many oncologists in the country, more than 70 percent of cancer patients have been referred late. There was also a general lack of awareness related to cancer and lack of information about specific oncologists to consult with and which hospitals to go to.

The team said it plans to initially run a social media campaign to raise awareness about cancer before launching the app, which needs more financial aid.

Hourt is working on the project with three other female members with a dream to eliminate death caused by cancer.

Sokhachan Socheata, 19, a second-year student at Paragon University majoring in management information systems, is another team member at CancerCo. She is from Phnom Penh and her grandmother died on September 9, 2020, of breast cancer at the age of 60. 

Other team members include Kou Siekmouy, a Year 4 student majoring in international relations, and Eung Kimsoung, a Year 3 student majoring in banking and finance. All are from Pagagon University.

During a presentation for the final pitch at the Smart Axiata event, Socheata revealed the sad story about losing a beloved grandmother after late treatment of breast cancer.

Socheata said cancer is a threat to many people and this inspired her team to create the app to uplift cancer patients’ spirits and provide their families with more hope.

According to Global Cancer Observation, Cambodia had 18,375 new cases of cancer in 2020, and 12,638 deaths of cancer. These were from five main cancers: 17.1% by liver, 10.3% by lung, 10.2% by breast, 8.7% by colorectum, 6.2% by Cervix Uteri, and 47.5% by other cancers.

However, the team is already facing obstacles when trying to meet medical persons about the project.

“Some doctor appointments are rejected because they do not understand us, they think we are young and pretending [of creating CancerCo. app] is just an idea, why need to meet them? why is it necessary to interview them?” Hourt said.

“Another reason is that our experience is still limited, so what we have done in the past is not perfect,” he added. “Cancer is not an individual problem, but a problem for all of us.​ Because we have responsibility and possibility to prevent it. Prevention is always better than cure.”