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A Remedy for Cancer Information Overload

Have you ever felt like there is so much material on a subject that you can't understand it, let alone make decisions? There's a name for this feelinginformation overload.

People receiving a cancer diagnosis often experience information overload. Donna Branson, director of Patient and Public Education at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), explains, "If you Google the term breast cancer, you may get 44 million hits. It's confusing, and not all of the information out there is credible."

HCI first opened its Cancer Learning Center (CLC) in 1999 to help patients and the public better understand cancer. The CLC's trained health educators vet the "44 million hits" to provide current, accurate information about treatment, side effects, and coping strategies.

Donna says the goal is to provide a welcoming environment where patients, families, and the general public can get answers to their questions about cancer. "We can point them to the most important information quickly, whether that's terminology, treatment, or maybe questions they should ask their health care team so they can be participants in their care," she says.

Jessica Duersch visited the CLC after being diagnosed with breast cancer. "All that week I was trying to figure out how to tell my kids," she says. "I knew I needed to fight cancer with everything I had. I needed tools to get there."

At the CLC, a health educator recommended several books to help Jessica explain cancer to her four children. She remembers a book titled Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings was best for her two youngest children. She says, "I don't even think I'd have been able to get the words out without that picture book. It told about cancer in the most simple and perfect way, so my kids could understand it on their terms."

Jessica says the learning center became a source of comfort for her. "I came in here often during treatments asking the librarians about things like dealing with the emotional side of cancer. I'm really grateful there are lots of resources out there to deal with that."

The CLC isn't just for HCI patients. The resource is free for anyone with questions about cancer. "People can reach our health educators by phone, e-mail, text, or live chat," Donna says. "We'd be happy to answer any questions people might have."

Learn more about the G. Mitchell Morris Cancer Learning Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) is a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, which means it meets the highest standards for cancer research and receives support for its scientific endeavors. HCI is located on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and is a part of the University of Utah Health Care system. HCI treats patients with all forms of cancer and operates several high-risk clinics that focus on melanoma and breast, colon, and pancreas cancers, among others. HCI also provides academic and clinical training for future physicians and researchers. For more information about HCI, please visit www.huntsmancancer.org.

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