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NCI Seeks New Ways to Improve Cancer Communications

NCI Seeks New Ways to Improve Cancer Communications

Every 3 years, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) asks
researchers, advisory panels, and advocacy groups to recommend "extraordinary
opportunities for investment," which it defines as "broad-based, overarching
areas of scientific pursuit that hold tremendous promise for significantly
expanding our understanding of cancer."

This is the sixth and final article in a series that
explores the progress and promise of NCI’s six current extraordinary
opportunities: Genes and the environment (January 2002, page 4); cancer
imaging (February 2002, page 22); defining the signature of cancer cells (May
2002, page 58); molecular targets of prevention and treatment (June 2002,
page 4); research on tobacco and tobacco-related cancers (July 2002, page 9);
and cancer communications (below).

BETHESDA,
Maryland—Cancer patients and the public have more
sources of information available about cancer than ever. As part of its
extraordinary opportunities program, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) seeks
to understand and apply the most effective communication approaches to provide
the most accurate information. Its efforts range from investigating how best to
communicate with various age, economic, racial, and ethnic groups to making its
own web pages easier to negotiate.

In this interview, ONI Washington bureau chief
Patrick Young discusses the challenges of communicating cancer information with
Barbara Rimer, DrPH, director of NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and
Population Sciences; Gary Kreps, PhD, chief of the division’s Health
Communications and Informatics Branch; and Mary McCabe, RN, director of NCI’s
Office of Education and Special Initiatives and acting director of the Office
of Communications.

ONI: What are the major problems in communicating
information about cancer?

Ms. McCabe: The
problem today with cancer and health information in general is its complexity
and volume, and the potential for inaccuracy.

Dr. Rimer: There are
also so many communication channels available. We need to find ways to give
people the accurate information they need, when they want it, and in a way that
is appropriate and appealing to them. That means that our knowledge of how to
manage all of these different channels has to grow. We need to sort out all the
complicated information— which even clinicians may not always understand—to
help people make informed decisions.

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