I am sorry that I have not posted anything recently, but I have just returned from Atlanta Georgia where I was an invited guest at a conference sponsored by the American Cancer Society, The Lance Armstrong Foundation and the National Cancer Institute. The conference was a biannual event focused on survivor research.
The sponsors of the conference invited twenty cancer advocates from across the country to participate in the meeting. We were paired up with a research mentor, an active survivor researcher to help us along our way. Along with Alvin Chin (Virginia Prostate Cancer Coalition ) I was matched with Thomas O. Blank, Ph. D., Professor, Director of Graduate Studies Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut as a mentor. In addition to being a very active and accomplished researcher, Tom is himself a prostate cancer survivor.
What is survivor research? Survivor research looks at everything that affects our lives as cancer survivors. You could say that it evaluates everything that affects us from the very moment we are diagnosed as cancer patients (survivors). The range of issues it looks at cover a myriad of areas including as examples, from the psychosocial effects of being diagnosed with cancer, the effect our lifestyles bear on our subsequent lives to the consequences brought about from our consumption of supplements.
Survivor research also examines our caretakers and their role in the cancer saga. It explores the effects that cancer has on them, our families, our society, and on us.
According to the American Cancer Society in the very near future there will be over 12,000,000 survivors living in the United States! Yes, I said 12 million survivors, this was not a mistype. I do not know what the number will be in the rest of the world, but it is phenomenally large. It is vital that we understand the impacts that cancer has on us and our family. This research is just beginning to answer some of the very basic questions, but we have a long way to go.
Survivor research is different from more traditional cancer research. Traditional cancer research looks at things like the genetic and molecular underpinnings of cancer, the effects of interventions on cancer progression etc. Both traditional and survivor research are vitally important and both need to be supported. Hopefully, in the future, the traditional research will make it so that we no longer will need the survivor research.
I am planning on sharing in future posts a number of very interesting research projects I learned about at the conference.
Joel T Nowak MA, MSW