Being a Cancer Advocate

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 02/2018

Listen to the Cancer.Net Podcast: Being a Cancer Advocate, adapted from this content.

Many people affected by cancer want to help improve the lives of people with cancer. That is the role of a cancer advocate. You will likely find that it is a positive and empowering experience.

Ways advocates help include:

  • Providing support to those living with cancer.

  • Raising public awareness about cancer and related issues.

  • Advancing cancer research.

  • Improving the quality of cancer care.

  • Addressing legislative and regulatory issues that affect cancer care and research.

It helps to identify which opportunities match your interests, skills, and abilities.

Consider the following advocacy activities:

Supporting individuals

As a cancer survivor, you could guide current patients through the experience. This could involve listening and sharing personal stories.

You could visit someone who recently received a cancer diagnosis. Or you could coordinate or participate in support groups.

Raising awareness and educating the public

Cancer advocates raise awareness at local and national levels. Activities include:

  • Educating the public about cancer.

  • Expressing the importance of cancer screening and early detection.

  • Speaking with community groups about critical issues. Topics may include insurance access, disparities in care, or job discrimination.

  • Communicating with local and national media about cancer-related issues.

Raising money for cancer research

Cancer research is expensive. To help remove financial barriers, many groups do fundraising. Advocates can plan or participate in local and national fundraisers.

For example, they could:

  • Donate money directly to a cancer group.

  • Donate money through a workplace-giving program.

  • Volunteer for a fundraising walk or run.

  • Buy products from sources that donate a percentage of profit to cancer causes.

Supporting cancer research through clinical trials

Clinical trials are an important part of cancer research. Patient advocate organizations help increase clinical trial enrollment by hosting clinical trial search engines on their websites. The National Cancer Institute sponsors various clinical trial cooperative groups.

Individual patient advocates can help these groups with various tasks:

  • Reviewing research grants.

  • Assisting in the development of clinical trial protocols.

  • Assisting in the development of clinical trial informed consent forms.

  • Participating in community outreach and education about clinical research.

  • Helping reduce barriers for participation in clinical research.

  • Recruiting patients for specific clinical trials.

Changing public policy

Cancer advocates can work to support or change laws and regulations affecting people with cancer. Individual patient advocates can help in these ways:

  • Sending a letter to a legislator

  • Testifying at governmental hearings

  • Speaking publicly about a cancer-related policy issue

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and other cancer groups work with Congress and federal agencies to improve the lives of people with cancer. This advocacy addresses legislative and regulatory issues that affect cancer care and research. Learn more about ASCO's cancer policy and health care priorities.

Related Resources

What is a Cancer Research Advocate?

How to Honor Your Loved One Through Cancer Advocacy

Tips for Getting Started on Social Media

How to Share Your Story—And Help Save Lives

An Advocate's Perspective on Patient-Centered Care