Being a Cancer Advocate

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2019

Cancer advocates work to help improve the lives of people with cancer. They do this in several ways:

  • Supporting those living with cancer

  • Raising awareness about cancer and related issues

  • Advancing cancer research

  • Improving the quality of cancer care

  • Addressing legislative and regulatory issues affecting cancer care and research

Many people find cancer advocacy to be a positive and empowering experience. If you are interested in becoming a cancer advocate, start by finding opportunities that match your interests, skills, and abilities.

Supporting individuals

Some cancer advocates guide current patients through the experience. Cancer survivors are especially helpful in this role.

You can support those living with cancer by:

  • Visiting someone who recently received a cancer diagnosis

  • Listening and sharing personal stories

  • Coordinating or participating in support groups

Educating and raising awareness

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 important issues. Topics may include insurance access, disparities in care, or job discrimination.

  • Communicating with media about cancer-related issues.

Raising money for cancer research

Cancer research is expensive. Many groups raise funds to help remove these financial barriers. Advocates can raise money for cancer research in many ways:

  • Plan or participate in fundraisers. This includes fundraising walks and runs.

  • Donate money directly to a cancer group.

  • Donate money through a workplace giving program.

  • 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. Some patient advocate groups work to increase the number of patients enrolled in clinical trials. One of the ways they do this is by hosting clinical trial search engines on their websites. The National Cancer Institute also sponsors various clinical trial cooperative groups.

Individual patient advocates can help these groups with various tasks:

  • Review research grants

  • Assist with developing clinical trial protocols

  • Help create clinical trial informed consent forms

  • Participate in community outreach and education about clinical research

  • Help reduce barriers to participating in clinical research

  • Recruit patients for specific clinical trials

Changing public policy

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

  • Send a letter to a legislator

  • Testify at governmental hearings

  • Speak 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. They focus on addressing 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