LESSON 3: The Fight Against Cancer

Time Required: One 40-minute class period 

Materials: The Fight Against Cancer Worksheet 3


1. Explain to students the scope and reach of cancer in the United States. Around a million and a half Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year. According to the National Institutes of Health, cancer cost the United States an estimated $263.8 billion in 2010. This figure takes into account not only the medical costs of treating cancer patients, but also the cost of lost economic productivity due to illness and early death.

2. The fight against cancer takes place in countless homes, hospital rooms, scientific laboratories, and offices of major private and government organizations. A disease that inflicts such large emotional and economic costs should be a major national priority. And in fact, the survival rate for cancer is rising, in part because of the work being done around the country by nonprofit organizations, companies, and government agencies.

3. Describe some of the work being done by those three types of groups and provide students with names/examples for each so the students have a frame of reference. First, nonprofit organizations provide a wide range of support in the fight against cancer. They raise money for scientific research and provide many services to those with cancer. They also build awareness among the public and among government officials about the scope of the challenge that cancer poses to individuals and society. Next, private companies, including drug companies and medical service providers, conduct research into cures and treatments for cancer. Much of this work is very costly. Lastly, government agencies pour a lot of resources into the fight against cancer. These agencies, such as the National Cancer Institute, conduct or fund scientific research in laboratories across the country.

4. Distribute Worksheet 3 and tell students that they are going to conduct research on one of these organizations that plays a role in fighting cancer in the United States. Divide the class into small groups. Instruct them to use library or Internet resources to conduct their research and encourage them to use more than one source to get multiple perspectives. They should report their findings in a short abstract (this word is defined on their worksheet as "a short summary often found at the beginning of research papers").

5. Conclude with a discussion about the role individuals can play in the fight against cancer. Brainstorm ways they can get involved in their own community. Invite students to visit www.livestrong.org to see how they can participate in the fight. Remind your class that large organizations are only as effective as the motivated individuals within them.

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