Working with Optune®
By Joey, Optune Patient Ambassador • 6 min read
Return to work concerns
I work full-time in an office/desk job for my local government, and a lot of my responsibilities and duties involve working with a computer and not too much physical activity. Sometimes, my job requires me to work events and handle requests where I am on my feet and moving around quite a bit. Still, it’s nothing that would be confused with manual labor. When I made the decision to commit to using Optune, one of my biggest concerns was how it would affect my job once I returned to work. How would my coworkers react to it? Would there be any changes to my current processes and procedures? Oh man, what are my clients and the public going to think? What I discovered was this: I was worrying about nothing and my transition back to full-time employment was easier than I could have imagined.
Explaining Optune to others
People often ask me to explain Optune to them. The first thing I like to do is ask people what they think it is and this usually produces some interesting and comical answers! I then explain that this device is my day-to-day treatment option for my glioblastoma. It is electronic-based therapy that is modeled just to my head and the frequency is tuned to target the GBM cells. I tell them it sends out electrical fields often enough to disrupt the remaining pieces of my tumor so they may be unable to grow and divide to form a new tumor. I also mention that for best results, I am recommended to use it at least 18 hours a day. However, I never force this answer on people and just let them bring it up.
Challenges and solutions
In terms of challenges I faced, one of the first was making sure the alarms and noise that Optune makes wouldn’t disrupt the rest of the office floor. This could mean my device was erroring or I was away from it for too long. I had to make sure I was cognizant of the noise I was making while working in an open office. If I am ever away from my desk, I make sure to turn the device off no matter how long I plan to be away from my desk. Any routine restroom trip can turn into a 10–15-minute conversation if you run into that particular coworker in an office!
I also had the challenge of temperature control in an open office. If I was hot, which is often the case when I use Optune, and generally the case being a bigger individual, I couldn’t just turn down the temperature. To combat this, I went out and purchased a desk fan that I can utilize when I feel warmer than everyone else, and I have, to the tune of wearing out two to three fans!
I also had to make some adjustments to my routines and processes. The first was the dress code. Working a government office job, the expected dress for men is generally ties and button-up shirts. Those outfits had always made me sweat more and I was concerned about my ties getting tangled up with my device wires. I approached my employer and they approved me wearing polos to combat this. This toned-down dress code helped with temperature issues as polos are much cooler than dress shirts.
I also worked with them on expectations concerning events and classes that would require me to leave the office and be on my feet more, and therefore sweating more often which would likely disrupt my device usage. My employer gave me the flexibility and ability to accept what events I wanted to work and decide whether it was strictly a “desk day” or not. There are some event days where I make the decision to use Optune as long as I can and then take it off if it feels loose or is erroring. I also schedule my time on the device to afford myself some work events where I leave it off. It is all about what makes you the most comfortable!
Materials on deck
In terms of batteries, I requested extra chargers and batteries from nCompass® just for my desk at work. I have three batteries always fully charged at the office in case I need them, and I make sure to rotate them out with the ones I currently use to ensure they are working properly. I keep my device plugged in and off battery power in case a meeting or something of that nature comes up and I need to be away from my desk for more than a few minutes. I also always make sure I have a fully charged backup battery in my backpack when I am at events or classes.
Additional tips and tricks
These tips have helped me in returning to work, so I hope they help you too. I always have an umbrella stashed in my desk and an extra shower cap in my bag for those pesky rain showers that can pop up. I make sure to have a backup set of arrays and materials in case I need to switch out my arrays. I also keep extra plastic bags at work to hold the used arrays I have taken off my head until I get home and can transfer them to the official return bag. There may be times your device will error at work, no matter what you do. That is okay! If you cannot figure out the alarm quickly, or have to run to a meeting, then I suggest powering off the device or taking the arrays off and giving yourself some time.
I have a part-time job working the front counter of a bowling alley because bowling is one of my hobbies and this job helps me pay off my student loans. For this job, I set it up to where I can take time off Optune since I am on my feet quite a bit and move around often. I also teach at the university I graduated from and include a slide in my opening class asking students if any of them wonder what the thing is on my head.
My hesitations and fears concerning returning to work while using Optune were put to rest very quickly. Using Optune while working in an office job is just as easy as using it at home once you get used to incorporating it into your daily routine. However, this was just my experience and yours may be different. If you are committed to making it work, then you can work while using Optune! I am truly grateful to my employer for their flexibility and willingness to work with me and I appreciate nCompass® for their support and materials whenever I need them.
Important Safety Information
What is Optune® approved to treat?
Optune is a wearable, portable, FDA-approved device indicated to treat a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in adult patients 22 years of age or older.
Newly diagnosed GBM
If you have newly diagnosed GBM, Optune is used together with a chemotherapy called temozolomide (TMZ) if:
- Your cancer is confirmed by your healthcare professional AND
- You have had surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible
If your tumor has come back, Optune can be used alone as an alternative to standard medical therapy if:
- You have tried surgery and radiation and they did not work or are no longer working AND
- You have tried chemotherapy and your GBM has been confirmed by your healthcare professional
Who should not use Optune?
Optune is not for everyone. Talk to your doctor if you have:
- An implanted medical device (programmable shunt), skull defect (missing bone with no replacement), or bullet fragment. Optune has not been tested in people with implanted electronic devices, which may cause the devices not to work properly, and Optune has not been tested in people with skull defects or bullet fragments, which may cause Optune not to work properly
- A known sensitivity to conductive hydrogels (the gel on the arrays placed on the scalp like the ones used on EKGs). When Optune comes into contact with the skin, it may cause more redness and itching or may rarely cause a life-threatening allergic reaction
Do not use Optune if you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant. It is not known if Optune is safe or effective during pregnancy.
What should I know before using Optune?
Optune should only be used after receiving training from qualified personnel, such as your doctor, a nurse, or other medical staff who have completed a training course given by Novocure®, the maker of Optune.
- Do not use any parts that did not come with the Optune Treatment Kit sent to you by Novocure or given to you by your doctor
- Do not get the device or transducer arrays wet
- If you have an underlying serious skin condition on the scalp, discuss with your doctor whether this may prevent or temporarily interfere with Optune treatment
What are the possible side effects of Optune?
The most common side effects of Optune when used together with chemotherapy (temozolomide, or TMZ) were low blood platelet count, nausea, constipation, vomiting, tiredness, scalp irritation from the device, headache, seizure, and depression. The most common side effects when using Optune alone were scalp irritation (redness and itchiness) and headache. Other side effects were malaise, muscle twitching, fall and skin ulcers. Talk to your doctor if you have any of these side effects or questions.
Please click here for the Optune Instructions for Use (IFU) for complete information regarding the device’s indications, contraindications, warnings, and precautions.
On this site, patient and healthcare professional videos as well as all images labeled as Optune users, caregivers, or healthcare professionals depict actual patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals. All other depictions of patients and caregivers are actor portrayals. Patient images reflect the health status of the patients at the time each photo was taken.