Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

In this oncology lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 6-12, students use a free online game to play the role of an oncologist who must identify and treat cancerous tumors in patients. In addition to to furthering science and health understandings (including key vocabulary terms related to cancer and oncology), students will practice finding the main idea of a conversation and develop critical thinking skills. The Oncology Game is from our partners at Games Learning Society.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Compare and contrast normal human cells with cancerous cells.
  2. Identify the main idea of a conversation between doctor and patient during online simulations.
  3. Apply understandings of cancer growths to identify and treat cancer through online game play.


  • Computer and internet access for BrainPOP
  • Interactive whiteboard (or just an LCD projector)
  • Class set of copies of the Graphic Organizer (or allow students to access it on computers and type directly into the online form)


This game uses a free online game called Oncology. In the game, students participate in a simulation in which they play the role of a newly hired cancer specialist at a radiation therapy clinic who must identify and treat patients' cancerous tumors. Players meet with several patients, listening to their symptoms and offering responses based on notes and medical histories. For each patient, players are led to a CT scanner where they can analyze cross-sections of the body using real-life scans. They'll learn to denote areas of cancerous tissue with a marker. After marking or "contouring" treatable areas, players are then given control of multiple radiotherapy beams. They take on the task of positioning these beams in the best possible way in order to blast the cancer while avoiding healthy tissue. The Oncology game introduces students to some of the leading ways in which doctors pinpoint and treat tumors. It also provides practice in searching for the main idea of a conversation and gives players a chance to critically analyze some technical information.

Due to the sensitive nature of some of the patient outcomes, we recommend playing the game in its entirety before introducing Oncology to your students, and determine that it's appropriate for their needs. We also recommend impressing upon students the serious nature of a cancer diagnosis, and the need for doctors to communicate with patients in a compassionate, helpful manner.

Though the lesson plan below utilizes only the Cancer movie, you might also find that the Body Scans, Radioactivity, and Smoking movie topics are helpful in building students' background knowledge and helping them understand the situations they will encounter during game play.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Conduct the Experiment as part of a quick demonstration, and review what students already know about cells.
  2. How are cancer cells different from normal cells? Pass out the Graphic Organizer or allow students to access it on computers. Provide approximately five minutes for students to compare and contrast normal body cells and cancer cells with a partner, and record their thinking on the graphic organizer. You may want to project the Vocabulary tab while students work to encourage them to use key terms.
  3. Play the Cancer movie for students. Provide time for students to edit and update their graphic organizers based on what they learned in the movie.
  4. Tell students they will have the opportunity to play a game that allows them to play the role of an oncologist. They will be responsible for identifying the cause of patients' ailments, as well as identifying cancer in the body and removing it via surgery. You can project the Oncology game for the class to see and go through the intro together, allowing students to skip the intro when they play on their own. Remind students to use reading comprehension strategies to determine the main idea of the conversation between doctor and patient, and demonstrate through an initial round of game play if needed.
  5. Allow approximately 20 minutes for students to play the game either independently or in pairs.
  6. Provide time for students to revisit their graphic organizers one final time and add any information they learned through game play.
  7. Conclude with a whole class discussion about the game. Talk about the differences between the cells. How could students tell which were cancerous? What strategies did they use to remove the cancer? How is the game similar to real life situations in hospitals, and how is it different? Spark a discussion about the way the doctor in the game spoke to his patients. What does it mean to have an appropriate bedside manner? If you were a doctor, how would you break the news to patients that they had cancer?
  8. Encourage students to extend what they learned about oncology. You may want to have students brainstorm questions for an oncologist, and invite a doctor to Skype with your students in order to answer the questions.

Extension Activities:

Be sure to check out our other Science Games and Health Games on GameUp, including Control of the Cell Cycle which teaches about cell division.
Filed as:  6-8, 9-12, Blended Learning, Body Scans, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.2, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.7.2, Cancer, Cellular Life and Genetics, Diseases, Injuries, and Conditions