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On-Line Help for Cancer


by Yvona Fast

When someone you know gets cancer, you want to offer more than support and reassurance. You want to help. These sites can aid you in finding important information on everything from cancer prevention to locating others who have walked the path before you and can offer their experience and support.

Information

Begin your information search with a general site like Medline Plus (www.medlineplus.gov). By clicking on "Health Topics", and selecting "C" for Cancer, you will find sections on Cancer, Cancer Alternative Therapy, Cancer Chemotherapy, and Cancer—Living with Cancer. Clicking on these choices will reveal a long page of links, many of which go to the National Cancer Institute or to the American Cancer Society, two key sources for cancer information.

Another general, user-friendly medical site with cancer info is NOAH's cancer center (in both English and Spanish) at http://www.noah-health.org. (To go directly to "Ask Noah about Cancer," go to http://www.noah-health.org/english/illness/cancer/cancer.
html).

The National Cancer Institute, which can be found at www.cancer.gov, (also www.nci.nih.gov and www.cancernet.nci.nih.gov), contains everything from news and statistics to alternative treatments and clinical trials. Cancer Topics lists common cancer types and an A to Z list of cancers. There is information on prevention, testing, treatment, coping, and support.

Physician's Data Query (PDQ), NCI's comprehensive database, includes the latest information about cancer treatment, screening, prevention, genetics, supportive care, and clinical trials. The PDQ statements are listed in alphabetical order by type of cancer. The site is searchable by type of cancer or body part, is easy to use, and includes a dictionary of cancer terminology and information in Spanish.

The American Cancer Society's www.cancer.org has excellent patient information resources. Their interactive site can help you to explore treatment options, make treatment decisions, or find a clinical trial. There's information for patients, survivors, and supporters (family and friends of cancer patients). Facts, figures, statistics, and research reports are right at your fingertips.

Oncolink (www.oncolink.upenn.edu), the University of Pennsylvania's cancer research center, bills itself as the Internet's first cancer resource and includes the most current cancer treatment information. It is definitely a research, rather than a layman's, site. For the serious student, however, there's a wealth of information here, including a virtual library with book and video reviews, summaries of journal articles, and links to the online sites of major oncology related journals.

The journal entries are annotated, allowing you to find definitions of difficult terms and cross-references to additional information. There's information on types of cancer, treatment options, coping strategies, and other cancer resources. You can even send a question to one of their medical experts online.

Would you like to know your cancer risk? Specialists at the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention can help you do just that. Estimate your risk of a dozen different cancers by answering some simple questions at their site, www.yourcancerrisk.harvard.edu. The results are tabulated, generating a colored bar chart that illustrates your risk.

You can also construct a personal profile with individually tailored ways to reduce your risk. Of course, Your Cancer Risk should not replace regular medical check-ups. It's simply an educational tool.

Interested in the relationship between diet and cancer? Go to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR; www.aicr.org). This organization conducts research on the interaction of diet and cancer, and provides educational resources through publications as well as their web site. They advocate a predominantly plant-based diet, and provide a nutrition hotline and recipe corner.

Support

Looking for the support of those who have trod the road before you? The American Cancer Society's support page (http://www.cancer.org/docroot/SHR/SHR_0.asp) offers stories of hope and inspiration from those living with cancer. The survivor's network is an online community created by and for cancer survivors and their loved ones.

There are many local and Internet support programs; some are for men, for women, for teens, others for everyone. By entering a zip code, you can find support groups and resources in your area. There are also on-line chats and forums where you can talk with others whose lives have been touched by cancer.

The Cancer Hope Network (www.cancerhopenetwork.org) matches cancer patients with trained volunteers who have gone through similar experiences. Their services are free and confidential, and open to all those suffering with cancer and their families.

Still searching? A myriad of support groups inhabit the Yahoo Groups site: www.groups.yahoo.com. Enter "cancer" in the search box, and up comes a list of more than 2,000 groups! You can refine your search by combining terms—for example, at the time of this writing, "parents and cancer" provided 21 groups, "cancer and Christian", 22. Or limit your search by type of cancer. By clicking on a group, you will get instructions on whether the group is accepting new members, and how to join.

Even if you carry health insurance, you may need financial assistance to deal with this costly disease. Cancer Care's (www.cancercare.org) offers free help for people battling cancer. Their services include counseling, emotional support, referrals to support services in your area, financial assistance, professional consultations, and educational services.

If your search is still unsatisfied, you can find an exhaustive list of cancer links at www.meds.com/cancerlinks.html. Included is general information, a glossary of cancer terms, medical online guides, newsgroups, listservs, clinical trials, national and regional cancer centers, a list of cancer organizations, news sites about cancer, and medical library web sites. Always be sure to check the source of the information, and ask what is the purpose of the site—whether to educate, inform, or sell a product.

The amount of online cancer information is staggering; these are only a few of a multitude of sites. A little digging will lead to great riches as you investigate this topic.


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