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Oncological Nurses

History

The history of cancer dates back to early Greek and Roman writings, which included descriptions of the disease. Cancer affects all of the world's populations and has been the subject of intense medical investigations. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1 million people in the United States are diagnosed with cancer each year. Cancer ranks second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death.

Nurses have always played a role in treating cancer patients, but it was not until the 1970s that oncological nurses began to receive greater recognition for their unique training and focus. The National Cancer Act of 1971 provided much-needed funding for cancer research, which improved the knowledge of oncological nurses. The First National Cancer Nursing Conference was held in 1973. A small group of oncological nurses met at this conference to discuss the possibility of creating a professional organization, and in 1975, the Oncology Nursing Society was created to represent the professional needs and interests of oncological nurses and other health care providers.

Developments in the late 20th century, such as improvements in cancer treatment and early detection, have advanced the discipline of oncology and led to further studies. In the 1950s, minor success with cytotoxic chemotherapy initiated active research to develop anticancer agents. Although most useful drugs have side effects, oncologists continue to conduct studies to find better treatments. Increased public awareness of the positive effects of a healthy diet and exercise as well as the harmful effects of smoking has helped lower the risk of developing many types of cancer. Many believe that cancer will someday become a largely preventable disease.

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