Understanding Cancer

What is Understanding Cancer?

Contact Noelle Voges to organize an Understanding Cancer training in your community.

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Understanding Cancer is an educational curriculum focused on informing community members about the cancer disease. Understanding Cancer provides an introduction to cancer by addressing topics on the disease. These topics include:

  • Explaining how cancer develops in a person’s body
  • Identifying cancer risk factors and prevention
  • Cancer screening recommendations
  • Cancer diagnosis and treatment options
  • Supporting patient, cancer survivors, and caregivers
  • Interpreting articles about cancer in the media
Goal of Curriculum

women sitting down at table talking

This curriculum’s goal is to inform, empower, and engage patients, cancer survivors, caregivers, and friends or family members on topics relating to cancer. After completing this cancer education training, participants will be able to discuss ways to reduce cancer risk, know recommended cancer screening exams and screening guidelines, and can identify where to access both local and national resources to learn more.

Curriculum and Activities

The curriculum includes 6 chapters of important cancer education. The Toolbox at the end of the guidebook includes definitions to key cancer-related terms, information on national resources, and a one-page informational sheet describing typical cancer facts and myths. The Understanding Cancer curriculum is designed to be presented to either large or small groups of people in one half day training. Each attendee receives a copy of the Understanding Cancer guidebook to keep as a reference following the training.

Facilitators and the Facilitator Guide

Understanding Cancer facilitators are individuals familiar with the content in the guidebook and have attended a 1-day training that explains how to coordinate and present the guidebook to individuals in their communities. These facilitators reach out to local civic groups, churches, health departments, healthy lifestyle organizations, etc. to gauge their interest in holding an informative training about cancer. Each facilitator has a Facilitator Guide that is used to deliver these educational trainings. The Facilitator Guide provides pre-created PowerPoint presentation to lead the training, tips on managing the discussion parts of the curriculum, instructions on how to administer the pre- and post-tests, and further details on how to productively include activities throughout the training.


The Cancer 101: A Cancer Education and Training Program for American Indian and Alaska Natives was the original inspiration for developing a community-based cancer curriculum. Due to the success of Cancer 101, members from the Appalachia Community Cancer Network’s (ACCN) created a curriculum called Understanding Cancer Guidebook and Study Sheets that was funded by the National Cancer Institute and focused on populations in the Appalachian region. This Understanding Cancer 2nd Edition curriculum includes extended and updated content which reflects an increase in understanding cancer as well as new activities and resources for all to reference.