Cancer Information and Health Education

To make good decisions about your medical care, you will need accurate information about your diagnosis and what to expect from cancer treatment. It is sometimes difficult to remember everything your doctors are telling you, especially when you may be upset. In addition, people with cancer are often confused by what they read in newspapers or by the advice of well-meaning friends.


  1. Accurate information about your illness and how it is treated, as well as second opinions and treatment options.

  2. Pamphlets and other written material describing what to expect from treatment.

  3. Information related to typical questions or common myths about cancer.

  4. Books, articles, and pamphlets written by counselors or people with cancer about how to cope with the emotional aspects of chronic illness.

  5. Information about community services, such as vocational retraining, transportation services, and financial assistance.


  1. Your doctor, nurse and other health-care team members should be the first people you talk with about your illness. They will give you information suited to your situation.

  2. Besides your doctor, the Cancer Information Service (1-800-4-CANCER), funded by the National Cancer Institute, is an excellent resource for written materials. The CIS will answer your questions by telephone and will often send you written materials on request. The American Cancer Society (1-800-ACS- 2345) also provides information.

  3. The American Cancer Society sponsors group education programs to help you understand your illness and the problems associated with it, such as "I Can Cope." You may want to call 1-800-ACS-2345 for further information about these programs.


  • If you are having trouble getting information, consider a family meeting with your doctor when he or she can devote enough time to answering your questions. Bring a family member or friend along to help you remember all aspects of the discussion.

  • Keep a running list of questions in a notebook that you'd like to ask your doctor. Take the notebook with you to your doctor's office or to your clinic appointment.

  • Not all patients need the same amount of information. Tell your doctor if he or she is giving you too much or too little information. If you are confused, you may worry and that will make it harder to cope. You may find the booklet "Talking with Your Doctor" helpful. It can be obtained through your local American Cancer Society.

  • Be aware that books about cancer that you may obtain from the library or bookstores are often outdated. Materials from the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society tend to be the most current.

  • In talking with friends or other people with cancer, remember that everyone is different, and comparing your illness or treatment with someone else's may be confusing. People mean well when they give advice, but your doctor is the best source of information

  • If you still feel anxious and fearful, talk with your nurse or social worker. They can help you figure out why your information needs are not being met. You may be too worried to completely hear what your doctor is saying. Perhaps your doctor doesn't understand your unique concerns. Whatever the reason, being unsure about what is going on will make it harder to cope.


My Journey to Becoming an Oncology Nurse
by Karen Arnold-Korzeniowski, BSN, RN
September 17, 2014