To Reduce Cancer’s Terrible Toll, UVA Reaches Out to Those Often Left Unheard

(Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

The University of Virginia Cancer Center is reaching out to the people it serves to identify and overcome barriers to care.

With the help of UVA’s Center for Survey Research, the Cancer Center is preparing to collect opinions from people in the 94 localities that are home to more than 80% of the Cancer Center’s patients. UVA is placing particular emphasis on reaching people who are often underrepresented in surveys, including rural residents, low-income residents, minorities and people aged 25 to 45.

“The goal of this assessment is to better understand the needs of residents in the commonwealth so the UVA Cancer Center can provide targeted and expert cancer prevention, cancer-risk reduction and quality services to cancer survivors,” said Wendy Cohn, associate director for community outreach and engagement at the UVA Cancer Center. “This will benefit our patients, families and residents of the commonwealth because we will be able to provide programs and services that are uniquely tailored to patients. We will be better able to respond to the needs and preferences of our patients by providing timely and evidence-based programs to those who need them.” 

The Best Care for Cancer

The research team will inquire about important topics including barriers to care, residents’ use of technology, their cancer screening and prevention behaviors and their attitudes toward genetic testing and medical research. UVA will do this through the traditional survey methods of phone calls and mailings, but the researchers are also taking advantage of social media: To access those often left unreached, they plan to launch a social media campaign on both Facebook and Instagram.

Cancer Center leaders hope to collect opinions from at least 2,000 people. They plan to use the information to improve how the center serves its patients and to devise solutions to the problems that prevent people from getting the best care possible. The results could, for example, lead to new medical interventions, inform policy changes to improve public health, increase cancer prevention efforts and enhance cancer care.

“The UVA Cancer Center is dedicated to reducing the burden of cancer in the commonwealth through excellence in research, education, treatment and community service,” said Roger T. Anderson of UVA’s Department of Public Health Sciences, the associate director for population sciences for the Cancer Center. “We are delighted that this [National Cancer Institute] initiative will allow us to gain valuable insight in the commonwealth on where assistance is needed on topics such as increasing awareness of cancer prevention, stopping use of tobacco products, becoming physically active, reducing barriers to recommended cancer-screening services and getting access to the latest and most effective cancer therapies. We look forward to sharing the results of this survey with the many community partners, health systems and cancer prevention stakeholders throughout Virginia.”

About the Cancer Campaign

The outreach campaign is expected to begin in the coming weeks. The project is being coordinated by researcher Rajesh Balkrishnan of UVA’s Department of Public Health Sciences.

“By collecting detailed behavioral data through this survey that are specific and representative to patients in the UVA Cancer Center area, we can understand region-specific risk factors and behaviors related to cancer,” Balkrishnan said. “This will enable researchers and clinicians at UVA to design interventions and treatment strategies that will most benefit patients.”

The research is being funded by NCI grant 3P30CA044579-27S5. The NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health.

Media Contact

Josh Barney

UVA Health System