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Talking about cancer in the classroom

Cancer in the School Community booklet now available

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Chances are that cancer in one form or another will touch most people’s lives and a new resource from the Cancer Council will help schools to support families, kids and staff when it strikes.

Cancer Council’s fully revised Cancer in the School Community resource explains how school staff can support their community throughout all stages of cancer.

In Australia, about 1,000 school-age children and more than 127,000 adults are diagnosed with cancer each year. About a third of those adults are under 60, and many will have a school-aged child.

Cancer Council NSW Cancer Support Services Manager, Lauren McAlister, says the resource offers expert knowledge and practical advice to ensure no member of a school community has to face cancer alone.

“Every school is a community, a network of relationships connecting students and caregivers with principals, teachers and other school staff. It is important to remember that each cancer journey is different and every individual navigates it in their own way. For example, some people might wish to keep details private, while others will welcome the chance to speak openly about it and are keen to make use of support.

“When anyone in a school community is diagnosed with cancer, people usually want to help but may not be sure where to start. Cancer in the School Community provides guidance on the best approach for discussing cancer in and around the classroom and tips on communicating with people of all ages about cancer.”

Caroline Powell Senior Psychologist-Education, Freshwater Senior Campus said: “It is rare to find a school community that has not been affected by cancer in some way. The school is a key source of support and stability for students, families and staff members, but sometimes it is difficult to know how to respond when faced with difficult questions about cancer. This resource makes cancer a conversation not a sentence.

“I would encourage schools across Australia to use this free resource so that they can sensitively deal with the impact that a cancer diagnosis has on not only those who are directly affected, but also the wider school community. The resource provides so much valuable information, from simple ways to explain what cancer is and how it is treated, to advice on how to share difficult news in the classroom.”

Cancer in the School Community is relevant for all primary and secondary school staff throughout Australia and may also be useful for parents, students or family members.

To ensure every school community is able to respond effectively and sensitively to issues that cancer may raise in the school environment,Cancer in the School Community is also available for download at, or schools can order free hard copies by calling Cancer Council on 13 11 20.

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