LESSON 1: Giving Support

Time Required: One 40-minute class period

One 40-minute class period

Materials: Giving Support Worksheet 1


1. Explain to students that cancer is a group of more than 100 diseases that affects millions of Americans. Cancer cells invade and destroy the tissue around them. Cancer is caused by changes in genes that control the growth and death of cells. While we do not know the causes of all types of cancer, scientists have identified many lifestyle and environmental factors that affect normal genes in this harmful way.

2. Tell students that cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. and can affect anyone. The three most common treatments for cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Surgery is an operation to remove cancer. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. There are often side effects to cancer treatment that can be a challenge to overcome for someone fighting cancer.

3. Click here to view the "Body Image" video. Ask the class to list some of the side effects of cancer treatment. Ask students how they think they would react to these side effects. Discuss the role that body image plays in daily life, including why it seems important and how it is (or is not) related to personal identity. Ask how the girls in the video met the challenges of treatment. Have students record some of these answers on Worksheet 1.

4. Lead a conversation about the different ways to be supportive of someone with cancer. Being sensitive to a person’s body image is just one way of showing concern. Tell students that it is often difficult to know how to be supportive, especially of someone whose appearance has changed dramatically. It also might be difficult if students can’t actually see any physical changes, such as a hidden scar. Emphasize that in general it is a good idea to be as sensitive and as honest as possible about their feelings—honest with themselves and honest with the other person. Remind students that while a person with cancer may look different on the outside, he or she is the same on the inside. In groups, students can create vignettes about supporting someone with cancer.

5. Tell students that if they have any further questions to write them down on a separate sheet of paper, leaving their names off. Collect them, read the questions aloud, and give students the opportunity to respond.

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