SOMC Cancer Center Brings Disease Awareness to Local Students

The Cancer Center at Southern Ohio Medical Center recently opened its doors to local students to bring a greater understanding and awareness of the disease, its treatments and its preventive measures to the youth of the community.

“Earlier this year, we sent letters to all area guidance counselors, inviting students to visit the center for a special one-on-one tour and day of learning,” Kelly Lawson, clinical manager of SOMC Oncology Services, said. “Multiple schools responded to the offer and so far we’ve probably conducted six tours to around 200 students.”

Alice Spriggs, third grade teacher at Northwest Elementary School, said she eagerly jumped on the invitation, noting that the tour was the perfect opportunity to give her students a better grasp of the disease.

“Last year we had a student who was diagnosed with cancer, and now-a-days there are so many with family members who are suffering from it,” she said. “My students wanted to know what they could do to help, which is why we wanted to visit the center and hear first-hand from the employees who work there everyday.” 

Lawson explained that during the tour, students are able to learn specifics about many different types of cancer and the therapies and treatments that may be associated which each.

“We try to gear the visit toward the group’s specific age so they can gain the most from the experience,” she said.

“For one eighth grade group, we talked a lot about lung cancer prevention and showed them X-rays of the disease in hopes of keeping them from smoking. With the younger kids, we focus on lighter, but relevant topics, like wearing sunscreen to prevent skin cancer and eating balanced diets and exercising to stay healthy.”

Students also have the chance to ask questions and learn answers to topics that may previously have seemed frightening, such as hair loss, length of hospitalization and painfulness of treatment.

“The visit really put things in a different perspective and was very worthwhile,” Spriggs said. “It also helped my students learn that, while cancer is a terrible disease, it does not always mean death and there are things that can be done to prevent it. We thank the Cancer Center for their kindness and enthusiasm and look forward to bringing students back next year.”