Our Fall Focus on Women

October 8, 2009

October marks National Breast Cancer Awareness month, now in its 25th year, a time to contemplate important advances and milestones as well as future research needs.

October marks National Breast Cancer Awareness month, now in its 25th year, a time to contemplate important advances and milestones as well as future research needs. It follows National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in September, with this year's theme “Know your body. Know your symptoms. Help spread the word.” Throughout the October issue of ONCOLOGY Nurse Edition there is a focus on women, in particular patients with women's cancers, their unique nursing care needs, and ways we can empower women-and ourselves as clinicians-with the right information at the right time.

For example, Catherine Hydzik explains in the cover feature that intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy, used in some institutions for decades, is re-emerging as a standard of care for selected patients with ovarian cancer. Based on the results of several large clinical trials that demonstrated significant survival benefit and acceptable toxicity over time, the National Cancer Institute issued a Clinical Announcement recommending IP chemotherapy as the standard of care in newly diagnosed stage III optimally debulked epithelial ovarian cancer.

In their Late Effects Clinic article, Angela Jukkala and Karen Meneses write about the threat to fertility from gonadotoxic chemotherapy that is common in young breast cancer survivors who may be planning to start or add to their family.

In years past, infertility was thought to be a necessary price that must be paid in order to assure survival, but now for the approximately 50, 000 premenopausal women diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States annually, there is increasing attention to making sure that patients have access to accurate fertility preservation and information about assisted reproduction, as well as counseling services regarding future parenting options.

The needs of young women who survive cancer are discussed by Odo and Potter as part of an article focusing on the one million young adult cancer survivors in the United States, who frequently cannot access the appropriate post-treatment resources to address concerns about self-image, social relationships, physical late effects, sexual functioning, and fertility.

Two educational tear-out guides in this issue help nurses to communicate with HER2 positive breast cancer patients about treatment and monitoring their response to targeted therapy. We know that these women have increased anxiety about the potential aggressive nature of their disease and have a particular need for accurate information and psychological support-a key role for nurses.

Each of these articles contains current clinical information along with recommendations for nursing practice, but also provides us with a clear, critically important message. We should always keep in mind that our patients (in this case, women) are unique individuals with dimensions far beyond their medical issues. They have expectations for a rich life that includes relationships, family, employment, professional success, and spiritual growth. To assist in this journey, the right information at the right time is the right thing to do. In closing, I am pleased to introduce our new department on integrative oncology, a discipline with particular relevance to nurses. Our Guest Editors are two experts in this field: Debra Barton, PhD, RN, AOCN, FAAN, of Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Rochester, Minnesota, and Susan Bauer-Wu, PhD, RN, of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. This is sure to be an important component of our publication going forward.