Cancer research often makes splashy headlines, especially if the study appears to contradict conventional wisdom or seems to offer a potential cure. If you don’t read past the headlines, you may think that scientists are finding cures but doctors aren’t staying up to date.
But while these studies may have a role in how we understand causes and treatment of cancer, no single study by itself can be used for practicing evidence-based care. Health professionals have to go beyond the headlines and put the research in context before it becomes part of evidence-based practice. The question they ask is: Is this study really a game changer or simply another piece of data to add to the overall body of evidence?
Your doctors, nurses, dietitians and other health care providers don’t always have the time to sort through all the research and decide by themselves how to apply all the new studies to their practice.
Fortunately, there are health professional and expert groups that do this work. They do systematic literature reviews, grade the evidence and judge the strength of the evidence for many different types of health care practice. Examples are Cochrane Reviews, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library, and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. AICR’s Expert Report on Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer and its Continuous Updates is also an example.
Health care professionals rely on these resources and you can use them too when you have questions or want to learn more. If the evidence is not clear about specific treatments, looking at some of these reviews may better prepare you to think about your options. Your health care team can help you sort through what might work best for you.
So, for Cancer Research Month – thanks to all the researchers dedicated to understanding, discovering, analyzing and often times doing the slow tedious work, and to the health professionals working to translate that information into improved prevention, care and treatment of cancer.
For Cancer Research Month read about six of the many studies published this year alone that are furthering our understanding of how lifestyle may prevent cancer and help survivors.