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, MarylandCancer 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 understandto help people make informed decisions.