“It’s personal for me. But it’s also personal for nearly every American, and millions of people around the world.”
– Joe Biden, Jan 12, 2016
Cancer is a leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths, with an estimated $80.2 billion in annual in direct medical costs. A substantial proportion of cancers could be prevented, including all cancers caused by tobacco use and other unhealthy behaviors. At least 42% of newly diagnosed cancers in the US – about 729,000 cases in 2018 – are potentially avoidable. Disparities exist in the cancer burden – racial and ethnic minority groups and people with lower socioeconomic status tend to have higher incidence and mortality rates. Today, cancer accounts for about 1 in every 7 deaths worldwide – more than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.*
Communication plays a key role at every stage of the cancer continuum, from prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, to end-of-life care. Effective communication of cancer risks can motivate the public to take preventive actions against cancer (e.g., quit smoking, increase physical activity) and engage in early screening (e.g., mammography, colonoscopy). Effective communication among patients, family caregivers, and the health care team is essential for informed patient decision making and for delivering quality cancer care. End-of-life discussions with the health care team improves quality of life for cancer patients.
We are now in the midst of a communication revolution closely tied to the rapid development of information and web technology that has radically changed the way health information is communicated. Nearly 90% of Americans are Internet users. Roughly three-quarters of Americans (77%) now a smartphone. One in three US adults use the internet to diagnose or learn about a health concern. From mobile technologies, Internet search, social media, online support groups, to virtual reality, the new communication landscape offers endless opportunities for revolutionizing cancer communication to promote cancer prevention and early detection and to improve cancer care outcomes.
The Cancer Communication Initiative at the University of Maryland
NCI Associate Director Dr. Bill Klein, ARHU Dean Dr. Bonnie Thornton Dill, and COMM Chair Dr. Shawn Parry-Giles meet with CCI co-leaders
CHRC and NCI co-sponsor cancer communication panel at the National Communication Association Conference
The Cancer Communication Initiative at the University of Maryland is an ongoing, cross-disciplinary research and educational initiative spearheaded by CHRC, in collaboration with the School of Public Health at UMD, the School of Medicine at UMB, the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, the National Cancer Institute, and other organizations and individuals committed to reducing cancer burden in the U.S. and worldwide. The goal of this initiative is to advance the science of cancer communication through innovative programs that promote cross-disciplinary collaboration in cancer communication research, cultivate the next generation of cancer communication scientists, and inform and empower disadvantaged communities in their fight against cancer.
Goals of the Cancer Communication Initiative
CHRC has had a long tradition of collaborating with cancer researchers across the College Park and Baltimore campuses of the University of Maryland. A key goal of this initiative is to further promote cross-disciplinary collaboration that involves cancer researchers from the University of Maryland and beyond, through organizing special events, establishing seed grant programs, and overall creating platforms and opportunities for the exchange of ideas that leads to fruitful collaboration in cancer communication research.
CHRC is committed to cultivating the next generation of cancer communication scientists and leaders. CHRC engages students in cross-disciplinary cancer communication research and supports junior scholars specialized in cancer communication. Capitalizing on the rich cultural and political resources in the Washington D.C. area, CHRC connects students and junior scholars with leading cancer organizations (e.g., the National Cancer Institute) through internship/fellowship programs and joint mentoring activities.
CHRC has a strong track record in conducting empirical communication research addressing cancer disparities in local African American communities. Building on our past success in community-based research, we seek to strengthen our ties with local racial/ethnic minority populations, working with community organizations to implement evidence-based interventions for improving communication across the cancer continuum, and organize health promotion events that inform and empower disadvantaged communities.