The American Cancer Society is looking for volunteers to help spread the word about a new, landmark, cancer prevention study set to begin in Carroll County in March.
"The American Cancer Society is very much a grass roots organization that relies a lot on volunteers to accomplish our mission. There's no advertising for this study, it's all word of mouth," said Vivienne Stearns-Elliott, regional director of marketing communications for the south Atlantic division of the cancer society.
Volunteers working with the cancer society are called "Champions," and anybody who is interested in helping spread the word about the upcoming study can become a Champion, according to Jen Burdette, the American Cancer Society community manager for Carroll County.
"Anyone can be a Champion and help get the word out - whether they have never been diagnosed with cancer, are a cancer survivor, a caregiver to someone with cancer, an avid fundraiser for a cure or are interested in honoring friends or loved ones. Community Champions work with The American Cancer Society's local staff to educate their co-workers, friends, family and community about [the study], help drive community participation," Burdette said.
The upcoming study will be called Cancer Prevention Study 3, or CPS-3, and it comes with quite the pedigree: CPS-1 was conducted in the 1950's and discovered the link between smoking and lung cancer while CPS-2 - begun in 1982 and still ongoing - discovered the link between obesity and cancer, according to Stearns-Elliott.
While anyone can become a Champion and help the cancer society enroll participants in the new study, there are certain requirements for being an actual study participant, according to Gloria Crockett, state vice president for the American Cancer Society of Maryland.
The study is open to men and women between the ages of 30 and 65, who are able to commit to participating in the study for 20 to 30 years, Crockett said.
The study is focused on cancer prevention, so persons previously diagnosed with cancer - with the exception of basal and squamous skin cell carcinomas - are ineligible, according to Crockett.
"We're hoping to better understand the behavioral, genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that lead to cancer," Crockett said.
Stearns-Elliott said that enrollment in the study will begin in Carroll in early March of this year.
According to Crockett, the American Cancer Society of Maryland hopes to enroll 5,000 participants in the study, part of a target 300,000 nationwide, and a goal that underscores the importance of cancer society Champions in the recruitment process.
According to Burdette, the goal is for each Champion to engage with 10-25 people who are qualified to be study participants, and Champions are free to reach out to others by whatever means they have at their disposal.
"The Champions are asked to spread the word through whatever methods they have available and to whatever audiences they can reach. For example, they may ask their employer to send out an email to all employees telling them about the study and asking if they can speak for a few minutes about the study at the next staff meeting. They could share information about the study at their book club, PTA or civic group meeting. They could post about the study on social media sites they utilize and encourage their friends on Facebook and Twitter to enroll. We are simply asking Champions to share information about CPS-3 and why the study is important to them with those around them," Burdette said.
Burdette also said that there are numerous resources available to Champions.
"We have lots of resources to help them spread the word from flyers, posters and brochures to FAQs and sample emails, newsletter articles and social media posts ... we provide everything the Champions need to be educated about the study and to spread the word," Burdette said.
According to Burdette, the goal is to have 125 Champions in Carroll County to help spread the word about the study, and they were already about halfway there at the turn of the year.