Why Oncology Nurses’ Voices Matter in Cancer Prevention

By Kate B. Hubbard, MSN, RN, OCN®, NPD-BC - March 7, 2023

Despite efforts to provide cancer prevention education, research shows that >40% of all cancer diagnoses and nearly one-half of all deaths from cancer in the United States are attributable to preventable causes or lifestyles. Smoking, excess body weight, physical inactivity, and excessive exposure to the sun are a few causes that commonly lead to cancer development. Oncology nurses have a powerful voice in cancer prevention as they are often on the frontline of treating patients with cancer. As the most trusted in Gallop polls and a respected profession in the United States, nurses tend to have deep relationships with patients and their families that they can leverage to share life-saving preventative education.

4 Ways to Get Involved in Cancer Prevention

  1. Community Education and Screening Events

Oncology nurses can join community outreach efforts for local cancer programs and organizations. Cancer education and screening events are a common way to share cancer screening guidelines and identify ways to lower cancer risk, such as smoking cessation, and even provide on-site screening. In addition, community outreach programs can decrease barriers to health care and disparities.

For example, Duke Cancer Institute (DCI), a leader in innovative care delivery models, has a robust community outreach through its Office of Health Equity. With a Community Advisory Counsel of stakeholders from over 150 churches, DCI provides community outreach with health screening, education, and community-facing navigation. Their efforts are improving cancer outcomes and minority participation in clinical trials.

If your cancer program does not have events underway, consider starting an education event by partnering with local organizations, such as a faith-based organization or the YMCA. Work with your colleagues to organize a booth at an existing health and wellness fair to share cancer prevention information.

  1. Advocacy Organizations

Many oncology nurses participate in advocacy organizations to help influence local, state, and national health care policy. The Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) and the Oncology Nursing Society’s Center for Advocacy and Health Policy influence national policy in cancer care, including cancer prevention and detection. Both organizations participate in Capitol Hill Days, where oncology nurses join together in Washington, DC, or virtually to advocate for various oncology issues.

The Prevent Cancer Foundation® is a US nonprofit organization devoted to cancer prevention and early detection advocacy work. Check out their advocacy toolkit and other resources. Advocacy efforts can be anything from small measures like supporting workplace practices to national policy changes. In addition, oncology nurses can contact their legislative representatives to become an advocate for equal access to cancer prevention and detection.

  1. Social Media

Another tactic oncology nurses can use is leveraging social media to increase public awareness regarding cancer prevention. Social media allows nurses to share their messages with a broader audience. Consider posting about cancer awareness months, sharing an article on cancer prevention, or advertising an upcoming community education event.

Below are some forms of social media to consider:

  • Social networking (eg, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
  • Professional networking (eg, LinkedIn, professional conversation boards)
  • Media sharing (eg, YouTube, TikTok)
  • Blogs (eg, NurseTopia)
  • Knowledge sharing (eg, Wikipedia, StatPearls)
  1. Personal Connections

Finally, oncology nurses must understand their influence on colleagues, loved ones, and immediate communities by practicing healthy lifestyles. The American Nurses Association Enterprise has an initiative—Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™—to improve the nation’s health, one nurse at a time. They suggest that if all 4 million registered nurses increase their personal wellness, they can positively influence their families, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and patients.

They focus on 6 areas: physical activity, sleep, nutrition, quality of life, mental health, and safety. Whether having lunch with a friend or attending a church or school event, oncology nurses can engage in cancer prevention conversations. Personal discussions with a trusted nurse can often impact a person more than learning about screening online or from a provider’s recommendation.

Oncology nurses have a trusted voice that can truly change lives. Find a way that you can contribute to promoting the message of cancer prevention and help others take action in reducing their risk of cancer.

References

Nursing Ranked as the Most Trusted Profession for 21st Year in a Row

American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer

Community Outreach, Engagement, and Equity

Association of Community Cancer Centers

ONS Center for Advocacy and Health Policy

Prevent Cancer Foundation®

Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™

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