Attending ASCO as a Patient Advocate
Last updated: June 2018
Those who are new to the world lung cancer, may not have heard much about the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)…yet. As someone who was nearly overwhelmed the first time I attended, I’d like to share a little about what to expect and what opportunities are available for patients and advocates.
What is ASCO?
Each year, during the first week of June, nearly 40,000 oncologists, scientists, cancer specialists and advocates from around the world gather in Chicago for the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting. This is an amazing five days of scientific meetings and breakthrough research announcements. There are also thousands of exhibitors.
Simply navigating the massive convention facility can be overwhelming for first-timers. With more than two and a half million square feet of exhibit space, McCormick Place is the country’s largest convention center. Fortunately, most of the cancer-specific meetings on usually located in the same general area of the campus. ASCO tries to make it as easy as possible for first-time attendees by providing online resources.
Why Should I Attend?
As a lung cancer patient advocate, attending ASCO has become increasingly important. In the world of cancer, ASCO’s annual meeting is where virtually all cancer breakthroughs are released. This meeting is where results of clinical trials are announced, potentially leading to new treatments. It is where standards of care—from diagnosis to treatment to survivorship or end of life issues—are opening discussed and debated.
One aspect of attending these meetings is the ability to ask questions. There are usually Q&A sessions at the end of each meeting. In addition, during other sessions, known as Poster Sessions, advocates and patients can talk one-on-one with researchers.
In addition to transformational treatment developments for lung cancer patients in recent years, another significant change at ASCO is how the organization sets a place at the table for advocates. ASCO has designated wonderful staff members to communicate exclusively with patient advocates. They also have a meeting place just for the advocates, to rest, check emails or grab a quick breakfast or lunch.
As you may imagine, because demand is so high, hotels in Chicago are incredibly expensive during ASCO. Conference registration ranges from several hundred up to $1,200 for non-ASCO members. Patient advocates must pay a registration fee, but ASCO has discounted the rate for advocates.
Patient Advocate Scholarships
One of the best things ASCO does is offer a limited number of travel scholarships to advocates. ASCO’s charitable foundation, the Conquer Cancer Foundation, provide these Patient Advocate Scholarship Programs. The scholarships are for $1,800 for U.S.-based advocates will help offset travel expenses to attend ASCO. I have been the fortunate recipient of such a scholarship a few times, including the upcoming ASCO conference June 2-6, 2017. ASCO only accepts applications during a brief time usually in early spring. This year, ASCO accepted applications from March 6 through March 17. ASCO announces in advance when they will receive applications and posts the application form on its website in advance so applicants can complete them in a timely manner.
Even if you do not consider yourself a patient advocate, if you are a patient who wants to know the latest developments in lung cancer, or perhaps you feel as though you are running out of treatment options, attending the ASCO annual conference may very well benefit you. Many patients cover their own expenses to attend the conference.
Not everyone can afford to travel to attend the ASCO conference or is physically able to traverse the corridors of this huge conference center. Nevertheless, those interested in keeping up with the latest developments in cancer research have several options.
For example, you may be able to attend a regional ASCO meeting. After the Chicago conference, regional “Best of ASCO” meetings are held in San Francisco, Boston and New Orleans.
ASCO also has smaller conferences focusing on particular cancer themes, such as survivorship, quality care and palliative care. Travel scholarships may be available for those conferences, as well.
For those who would rather learn about scientific breakthroughs without traveling, connect via social media or sign up here to receive daily news highlights.
Also, I plan to write an article for LungCancer.net, so check back on this site after this year’s conference.
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