The Cost of Cancer

Is Cancer a Taboo Topic in your Classroom?

According to a recent health report, 12 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year, and that number is expected to rise to 27 million by 2030. Statistics like those show that cancer is an issue that we need to be talking about with students. Everyone knows someone who has been touched by one form of cancer.
6 Myths about Cancer The cost of medical care is something that we can’t ignore. Are you interested in using authentic materials in class? This¬†¬†Reuters article “Cancer Cost Becoming Unsustainable in Rich Nations” describes the rising costs of technology, treatment, and medicine related to cancer. Share this article with your students and see what they think about this change. You can print out the article and have the students read it, or read it out loud to them for listening practice. For lower level learners, simply summarize the main points and teach a few key expressions. After introducing the topic, discuss the issues.
Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Why is there such a huge rise in cancer worldwide?
  • What does “unsustainable” mean? When might you use this word?
  • What does it mean to “bury one’s head in the sand”?
  • What does it mean to “be at a crossroads”?
  • Why does innovation increase the cost of healthcare?
  • Do governments ensure fair access to medical treatment in your country?
  • What should be done to reduce the costs of medical treatment and drugs related to cancer?

“An explosion of new technologies and treatments for cancer coupled with a rapid rise in cases of the disease worldwide mean cancer care is rapidly becoming unaffordable in many developed countries.”
Kate Kelland, Reuters

Our Health Matters section features a full-length lesson on 6 Myths about Cancer. If your students are interested in this topic, be sure to print out a few of the related lessons.

Go to Health Lesson on Cancer
Go to Famous People Lesson on Terry Fox
Go to Famous Places Lesson on the Love Canal
Go to Living in English Lesson on Health
Go to Mini Debate Lesson on Caring for the Elderly

While our Something to Talk About suggestions are useful for getting your students involved in a group or pair discussion or debate, the topics, articles, and videos can also be used if you are looking for something for your students to blog/Skype/or write an opinion essay about.

Recent “Something to Talk About” Ideas

Cellphones in Classrooms
Facial Piercings at School
Street Musician Experiment
Steve Jobs: How to Live Before you Die
Why does Pisa Lean?


Leave a Comment ↓

  1. Skype English Lesson says:

    Oct 08, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    depends on your students I guess. If you are trying to make a class interested and have fun, this isn’t the best topic. Maybe if you have students who are interested in this subject, why not.

  2. seburnt says:

    Sep 28, 2011 at 5:05 am

    I wonder how much students do actually need to talk about grief or specifics surrounding cancer in L2. I guess the latter might be something they eventually could use if talking to a doctor. As for the former, expression sympathy to a friend who is grieving, I guess. Personally, it (and topics like it that might have had a recent impact on their lives) may trigger emotional responses that better suit private contexts than classroom ones. I’m all for safe environments, but that’s to take risks with language, not to open the flood gates of emotion. I’m rambling…

  3. Tara says:

    Sep 26, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Thanks for stopping by Ty. Interesting thoughts. I guess this topic could be considered a downer, but English learners need language surrounding many different types of topics, including grief, health care etc. I am curious whether or not teachers feel comfortable talking with their students about cancer, since it’s one of those topics that might be difficult for certain students (and you can never know which ones). Personally, I talk with my students about it often as it is part of my life and has touched me greatly. But I know there are many teachers who probably wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that.

  4. seburnt says:

    Sep 26, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    No, it hasn’t been off-topic in my classes previously, though it was more likely touched on briefly than in full discussion. That is likely due to few people having much to say about it or experience with it beyond “I’d like to find a cure for cancer by 2030.” Otherwise, those of us with experience often don’t wish to dwell on the discomfort of treatments or stress on family members. These types of real, yet downer, topics seem to be best suited for classes that are not directly touched by them, however backwards that seems.

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