August is health literacy month

Health literacy is a crucial skill for people to understand a cancer diagnosis and its treatment options.

When diagnosed with cancer, you hear many different medical terms. At first these terms seem like alphabet soup or a long-ago algebra problem. Navigating the world of cancer care and its terminology is a daunting task for anyone.

Heath literacy is defined as obtaining, communicating, processing and understanding health information and services to make appropriate health decisions. A person who has trouble finding and utilizing the correct health information that they need has limited health literacy. This is a crucial skill for people to have in order to understand and cope with a cancer diagnosis and their treatment options.

Anyone can have limited health literacy—and it is not necessarily related to a person’s level of education or reading ability. Only 12% of the US adult population has a proficient health literacy level. In other words, almost 9 out of 10 adults don’t have the skills they need to help them make the health decisions that are right for them. The good news is that the Cancer Support Community has resources to help. You can:

  • Read our Frankly Speaking About Cancer resources that cover a variety of cancer types and topics in a comprehensive, yet easy-to-read, format.
  • Listen to our Internet radio show that discusses interesting cancer news and empowers listeners to live well.
  • Call our Cancer Support Helpline at 1-888-793-9355 to talk with a helpline counselor about your cancer-related concerns.

By learning more about your cancer, its treatment and side effects and how to better communicate with your health care team, you can take a proactive approach in your care, which can help improve your health and quality of life.

Shanna is an education intern at the Cancer Support Community and a rising junior at The George Washington University, where she is studying international affairs and political science and has a strong interest in public health.


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