Each year, the American Cancer Society’s National Cancer Information Center (NCIC) receives about 800,000 calls, emails and chats from people who are in need of answers – they may need information and support or they may want to volunteer or make a donation. Those contacts lead to more than 1.7 million services being provided. Phone lines are open around the clock, 365 days a year, to ease fears and give people all the answers they need about cancer.
“While many people are familiar with the research efforts of the American Cancer Society, few are aware of the full scope of free services available to cancer patients and their loved ones,” says Kevin Babb, vice president of the National Cancer Information Center. “These services can be obtained through one easy toll-free call to the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.”
According to Babb, when an individual calls the American Cancer Society they will be connected to a live Cancer Information Specialist. These specialists, who staff the phone lines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, are specially trained to listen to and identify the needs of cancer patients and their caregivers, then match them with services or resources to meet their needs.
“Our specialists really listen to where the patient is in their cancer journey,” Babb says. “Did they just get diagnosed and need educational materials? Are they in the middle of treatment and looking for a ride to their appointments? We make sure to manage all requests through to completion. No one will be left to navigate a cancer experience alone when they reach out to us.”
Through the process of probing and clarifying, NCIC specialists often discover that a person’s needs may go beyond their initial question. For example, a woman asking about the side effects of chemotherapy treatment actually may be concerned about losing her hair and how to prepare her children for this journey.
Look Good Feel Better is a free program for women who are undergoing cancer treatment. Volunteer facilitators teach women to improve their appearance and self-image through beauty techniques designed to overcome the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. During the sessions, licensed beauty professionals present makeup, skin and nail care tips. They also demonstrate how to disguise hair loss using wigs, turbans and scarves. Each woman leaves the session with a free goodie bag of makeup, donated by major manufacturers, to help maintain her new look. This program is a collaboration between the American Cancer Society, Personal Care Products Council Foundation, and the Professional Beauty Association.
“Women who battle with cancer fight more than just the disease,” Babb explains. “Many women feel a loss of identity from the side effects of cancer treatments, such as hair loss or skin issues. Look Good Feel Better gives women a chance to feel like themselves again and enjoy camaraderie with other women who are facing the same issues.”
The National Cancer Information Center can provide information on smoking cessation, clinical trials, and emotional and financial support. They have access to thousands of resources and can help cancer patients and their caregivers in both English and Spanish with more than 200 other languages available via a translation service.
“Whatever their needs might be, no matter how big or small, we always try to help,” Babb says. “Even if a person is just lonely or scared and needs to talk, we’re here. We are dedicated to serving the needs of all cancer patients. Our entire structure revolves around helping them get well.”
For more information about the many free American Cancer Society patient programs and services, or to learn how you can become a volunteer or donate, please call 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.