A comprehensive resource from the American Cancer Society (ACS) for anyone interested in the breast cancer experience, A Breast Cancer Journey takes the reader from the time of diagnosis to after treatment is completed. It serves not only as a source of information and comfort, but also as a workbook.
Chapters 1 to 3 deal with the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, while chapters 4 and 5 address short- and long-term considerations after treatment. Each chapter contains several features designed to personalize the use of the book. There are pages with space for notes, lists of questions to ask health-care providers or to ponder individually, and a variety of practical worksheets, all of which make the book interactive and useful.
Sections entitled "How You May Be Feeling," found in each chapter, describe how a patient may be feeling during each stage of disease, while offering comfort, validation, and suggestions at each stage of the journey. Quotes and practical tips from survivors personalize the messages. Sections entitled "Tips for Family and Friends," also found in each chapter, include the following topics: the caregiver, communicating and offering support, and communicating with children. The issues change throughout the journey.
Individual responses to a diagnosis of breast cancer and coping techniques are discussed in Chapter 1. The patient is advised not to rush into making decisions before taking adequate time to gather information, talk to others, and explore treatment options. This chapter includes a primer on the types of breast cancer and risk factors, as well as an example and discussion of a pathology report. The designation of a personal advocate is a suggestion presented in this chaptersomething that is not always seen in books about breast cancer.
Chapter 2 discusses treatment options and conveys the idea that a woman has time to learn about the type of cancer she has and the possible therapeutic approaches to consider before making a treatment decision. This chapter includes patient-directed breast cancer treatment guidelines based on the clinical practice guidelines developed by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Representing a consensus for current treatment, these recommendations are presented in both text and algorithmic formats. Clinical trials, reconstruction, and complementary and alternative treatment methods are also discussed.
Chapter 3 offers coping strategies for each aspect of cancer treatment and addresses the mental, physical, and emotional passage through treatment. Knowing your rights as a patient, keeping your own record of your medical information, and the importance of good communication with the health-care team are discussed as methods of active participation in cancer care. This chapter addresses treatment side effects and includes questions to ask about each treatment option, how to care for yourself during treatment, and a side-effects log. The issue of pain control is also addressed here.
Chapter 4 includes some of the emotional reactions patients experience after breast cancer treatment. A section entitled "Closing the Umbrella" describes feeling a void after treatment ends, dealing with fear and depression, and facing the future after breast cancer. Specific issues of intimacy and sexuality are dealt with in an open manner. Practical suggestions for resuming intimacy and for dating after breast cancer are provided. Questions about recurrence and follow-up care are addressed.