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Nancy Gore, director of the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Contact center at Fred Hutch. (Fred Hutch Photo)

For patients just diagnosed with cancer, or navigating complex treatment, it can be hard to know where to turn for answers to questions.

There’s one national center that’s designed to be that place: The National Cancer Institute’s Contact Center, which is operated by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Fred Hutch announced Wednesday that the NCI, a national government organization, is awarding it a $24 million contract to operate the center for the next three years, with a focus on expanding communication technologies the center uses to help patients.

“We are constantly adapting to meet people’s information-seeking needs,” Contact Center Director Nancy Gore said in a press release. “The sophistication of our clients has certainly increased over time because of what they’ve been able to access and read online about their conditions before contacting us. Now they often need to know how or whether specific information applies to their case, and that’s where we are able to provide additional context and education, including questions to take back to their health care provider to help further their understanding.”

The center fields requests from patients and their families over the phone and via an online chat, as well as through email and social media. Last year, 48 percent of the 92,000 requests the center received were over the phone, with the remainder coming through the internet.

Fred Hutch’s contact center first opened in 1981 and became the sole national contact center for cancer patients and their families when the NCI consolidated its centers in 2009. The center employs about 65 staff members.

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