Lifting the veil on prostate cancer and sharing lifesaving information, former National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, revealed in April 2024 that his active surveillance, slow-growing prostate cancer had advanced to a Gleason score of 9. Collins made the announcement in a Washington Post perspective piece in which he accounted his experience from both a patient and clinician lens.

“When I heard the diagnosis was now a 9 on a cancer-grading scale that goes only to 10, I knew that everything had changed,” Collins wrote.

However, “because of research supported by NIH, along with highly effective collaborations with the private sector, prostate cancer can now be treated with individualized precision and improved outcomes,” he added. “As a researcher who had the privilege of leading the Human Genome Project, it is truly gratifying to see how these advancements in genomics have transformed the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.”

Throughout his public announcement, Collins advocated for:

  • Patients to enroll in clinical trials to support continued scientific discovery and advancements
  • Patients to follow cancer screening guidelines
  • Clinicians to educate patients about current screening recommendations
  • The system to break down barriers and inequities such as access to image-guided biopsies

“I want all men to have the same opportunity that I did. Prostate cancer is still the number two killer of men,” Collins said. “I want the goals of the Cancer Moonshot to be met—to end cancer as we know it. Early detection really matters, and when combined with active surveillance can identify the risky cancers like mine and leave the rest alone.” 

Public cancer announcements like Collins’s can serve as a springboard for oncology nurse advocacy. It’s an opportunity to educate patients about the power of prevention and early detection and lawmakers about the power of policy and funding.

As an oncology nurse, here are some of the ways you can advocate: