Key resources for cancer patients and caregivers: the National Cancer Institute

Image on Ciao, Cancer! of the National Cancer Institute Most of the folks who visit Ciao, Cancer! have either had cancer, are currently in treatment, or have friends or loved ones battling the disease. Given the number of people newly diagnosed with cancer every year in the United States, this is probably true of most Americans–and most likely applies globally as well. When we’re confronted with the disease, we need one thing more than any other, and that’s quality information. The website of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is one place you’ll find it.

For those of you in a hurry, let me tell you the single most valuable NCI resource for patients and caretakers: their public Cancer Information Service, which you can reach at 1-800-4-CANCER, or online via LiveHelp. In either case, you’ll be connected with a real, live, information specialist who will do their best to answer any cancer-related question you throw at them. While staff cannot provide you with medical advice, they can and do offer a range of information about the disease, the organization and how it can help you, and cancer-related resources. I put the folks online to the test, and I’ve got to say, I’m impressed.

The website of the National Cancer Institute is a treasure trove of information. Like many government websites, it is not well-designed. There are no fewer than 70 links on the home page, which makes finding specific resources challenging (and the Cancer Information Service mentioned above all the more valuable). If you’re not a medical professional or a researcher, then you’ll probably be interested in just three link categoriesTypes of Cancer, Clinical Trials, and Cancer Topics–which appear in the center column on the home page. Apart from this area, there’s a link in the left column, Questions about cancer?, which will take you to a page with contact information for the Cancer Information Service. Also in the left column is a link to Quit Smoking Today. There you’ll find a number where you can reach an NCI smoking cessation counselor, in addition to three other helpful links: LiveHelp Online Chat (which I mentioned earlier), Smokefree.gov (a fantastic resource for people trying to break the habit), and Smokefree Women, which is a section of the Smokefree.gov site dedicated to cessation information for women.

Those of you in medical fields related to cancer, whether providing treatment or conducting research, are probably already familiar with the NCI site and its offerings. Information about funding opportunities for research is extensive. There is also a link to the NCI Research Resources website, a “directory of research tools and services for cancer researchers” with more than 175 listed resources.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen among patients is remaining ignorant about the disease. It may be bliss in some things, but when it comes to cancer, the consequences can be grave indeed. If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, learn absolutely everything you can about it. Know the resources that are available to you and take advantage of them. Encourage loved ones with cancer to do this as well, and if they won’t, then share the knowledge you’ve acquired.

In my mind, the first step to beating cancer is learning everything you can about it. Visiting sites like that of the National Cancer Institute means you’re moving in the right direction.

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