October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and public awareness efforts have been in full swing for a few weeks. It's a great time of year to remind your patients that many cancers are preventable, depending on certain factors, and that regular screening is key to catching any problems early. And now, it's easier than ever to share education resources with patients. Use Breast Cancer Awareness Month as a way to jump-start
the conversation around cancer with your patients, and when your patients want more information or need extra guidance, make sure these resources are available as links in their patient portal.
NCI Information Guides
When your patients want information about cancer, this is definitely the best place to start. The National Cancer Institute provides e-booklets on various cancer issues, from chemotherapy effects to the ins and outs of clinical trials. And of course, there are resources for breast cancer screening. These guides are available in multiple file formats, so make them available in your patient portal today!
Johns Hopkins Medicine is home to the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the center's Office of Public Affairs is committed to its mission of patient education. One aspect of that vision is a collection of videos, the C-Answers series, in which Johns Hopkins Kimmel Center staff answer frequently asked questions and discuss common topics of concern.
These videos are an especially good resource for family members of cancer patients, or for those who have recently become caregivers. Since these videos feature top researchers and oncologists, they're a good place for patients to start learning about cancer, as they're factual, easy to understand and simple to navigate. Topics are organized into playlists, such as this one on breast cancer education:
Risk Assessment Tools
Not every patient will necessarily raise concerns about cancer, or some may be unwilling to bring them up in-office. And of course, some patients are at a higher risk of developing cancer than others, and it's crucial those patients take autonomy of their own care. Encourage your patients to conduct risk assessments regularly in between office visits, and to monitor their lifestyle or environmental changes. There are several reputable cancer risk assessment surveys on the Internet that you can refer to patients. Harvard University's School of Public Health has an interactive Disease Risk Index tool that is organized by type of cancer, which can be helpful if patients have a family history or have exhibited specific risk factors in the past. The Canadian Cancer Society offers an interactive tool called It's My Life! via the CCS website. The educational game helps examine lifestyle factors and their relation to cancer risk, and also provides guidance for taking preventative action to lower the likelihood of developing cancer. Over on Cancer.gov, the National Cancer Institute offers a breast cancer assessment tool and various resources to better understand why certain women are more at risk of developing breast cancer than others. Make sure your patients know none of these tools is a substitute for regular exams, but they can be used to monitor risk and catch bodily changes as soon as they happen.
Cancer screenings and preventative actions should occur year-round, but now is a great time to emphasize that to patients. Make use of your patient portal and help assuage patient fears by being open to questions and eager to share information.
What resources do you use for cancer prevention education in your practice?
Let us know in the comments!