Science Writing for Healthcare Consumers

During the past two months, I've been busy at work on a project for a major cancer center.  My assignment: meet with doctors, surgeons, pathologists and patient care specialists to collect information, and then turn that information into comprehensible information that patients and caregivers can put to immediate use.

I've done quite a bit of health and life-science writing over the years, but this is the first time I've been asked to create information that has the potential to save a life.  I have to say that the opportunity is both exciting and daunting.  Perhaps my biggest challenge is to avoid answering every possible question, addressing every concern, and describing every treatment.  After all, I imagine, mightn't a patient want every scrap of information available?

In fact, of course, web writing should not and cannot be a series of dissertations.  Few readers will stick around to read thousands of words on the screen -- and every healthcare situation is unique.  Still, as I dive into a deeper understanding of what CAN be done to treat even major cancers, it's tough to keep from telling the whole story!