Breast Cancer Basics and Beyond

319

Treatments, Resources, Self-Help, Good News, Updates

According to the American Cancer Society, in the U.S. this year, an estimated 211,240 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and an estimated 40,410 women and 460 men will die of the disease. A significant group of people affected by breast cancer, to the tune of 50,000 women, will not be counted by the major organizations that keep tabs on the prevalence of this disease. These women have DCIS, or ductal carcinoma in situ, and they will be overlooked. Yet, this is hardly the only troubling issue surrounding breast cancer.

A new book, Breast Cancer Basics and Beyond: Treatment, Resources, Self-Help, Good News, Updates, by awardwinning Newsday medical writer Delthia Ricks, M.S., examines previously unasked and unanswered questions about the disease. Ricks lets patients know that even in the midst of a devastating diagnosis they are not alone. Integrating testimony from patients and the top breast cancer specialists nationwide, Ricks explains in detail:

  • Diagnosis: tests and types
  • Surgery: lumpectomy vs. mastectomy
  • The latest cancer treatments, including aromatase inhibitors
  • Recurrence, and breast reconstruction
  • How to build a support team, life after cancer, and follow-up care
  • Reasons to hope: new research, treatments in development, long-term survivors

In addition, Ricks puts the meaning of genetic risk into context for those who have one of the so-called “breast cancer genes.” She also includes in-depth discussions about medical privacy issues, genetic testing, and how genetic information should be handled.

Patient Stories Offer Hope

Often heartrending, and occasionally frightening, patients’ stories are woven throughout the text, illuminating what the moment of discovery was like when a lump or other cancer symptom was found. One woman recounts how her mammogram – which showed evidence of a tumor – was inadvertently filed away for months. Her health care providers never told her she might have breast cancer and needed further evaluation. The mammogram information was discovered by accident when the patient made an appointment for a sprained ankle!

Breast Cancer: A Lifestyle Issue?

Ricks opens by recounting the brazen finger-pointing that was aimed at Elizabeth Edwards, wife of the Democratic vice presidential candidate, John Edwards, when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2004. In the absence of statements from Mrs. Edwards’ doctors on her behalf, television news outlets openly attributed Mrs. Edwards’ cancer to her weight – and held lengthy discussions about it.

“Sometimes I wonder if compassion has simply vanished from our society,” says Ricks.

In a chapter on obesity and breast cancer, Ricks underscores that overweight women are less likely to seek medical attention, a point rarely reported by news outlets that are increasingly promoting obesity scares. Notes Ricks, “Breast cancer is a complex disease that even among the overweight is not due to a single cause. Yet, a growing trend labels breast cancer as a “lifestyle” disease.

This has led to blaming patients for their illness. That unacceptable tendency has been driven by poorly interpreted scientific studies, not by truth.”

Ethnicity and Breast Cancer

Ricks discusses another important point that has not received much explanation in other books on breast cancer: One of the biggest conundrums of breast cancer is the high mortality among African American women. Black women with breast cancer are more likely to die of the disease than any other group in the United States. Government figures show a death rate for African American women of 31.4 women per 100,000, compared with 25.7 per 100,000 for Caucasian women. As that rate has continued to decline for whites it has gone up for blacks.

Overall, African Americans have a lower incidence of the disease than Caucasians, but a small segment of the black population – women under forty – has a higher incidence than whites. Breast Cancer Basics and Beyond features interviews from experts who try to explain the disparity. Ricks also discusses why Asian women who move to the U.S. change from low risk to a more elevated risk.

When the Diagnosis Is DCIS

Neither the National Cancer Institute nor the American Cancer Society count women with the form of breast cancer known as ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, in incidence statistics. This form of noninvasive breast cancer is characterized by abnormal cells lining a milk duct. Women with this diagnosis face surgery, radiation, and sometimes even mastectomy.

According to patients and activists, separating the statistics implies that DCIS is not a serious form of breast cancer. It further suggests that there are 50,000 fewer breast cancer cases than there are in reality.

Access to Treatment

In an era when women with breast cancer are splitting pills to save money, Ricks does not assume that everyone has great health insurance and access to the best medical care. Her book acknowledges that some people have inadequate insurance and may have difficulty paying for services, purchasing prescription drugs, dealing with insurance companies and paying for care. Therefore, the book includes discussions on how to search the web for credible breast cancer information, as well as a comprehensive listing of medical centers, advocacy groups, and organizations that help negotiate medical disputes. And for those who are totally destitute, Rick’s book tells how to obtain a free diagnosis and low-cost medications and care.

Comprehensive Guide Is Written in Patient-Friendly Language

By gathering together all the latest information available, Breast Cancer Basics and Beyond helps women better understand their illness and enables them to make knowledgeable choices about their care, from diagnosis to recovery. Among the topics discussed are the pros and cons of different treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy; breast reconstruction; recurrence rates; building a support team; follow-up care; and life after cancer.

The book also addresses current issues such as emerging therapies; possible links between breast cancer and obesity, HRT, environment, and genetics; and debunks myths about the causes of and preventive measures against breast cancer. Top specialists and researchers offer comments and testimony, and personal stories from breast cancer survivors provide heartening reminders that the reader is not alone.

About the Author

Delthia Ricks, M.S., is an accomplished and widely read medical writer. She has received numerous awards for science and medical writing and has been awarded fellowships to study medical journalism, cancer, heart disease and genetics at Harvard, Case Western Reserve University of Medicine, and MIT.

The book’s Foreword was written by Clarence H. Brown III, M.D., a world-class oncologist and President/CEO of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Orlando, Florida.

Praise for the Book

Breast Cancer Basics and Beyond will be of immediate and welcome help to breast cancer patients and their families. Ricks’ approach is complete, careful and compassionate. Her deep experience as a medical writer shows through brilliantly.”

– Robert Cooke, author

Dr. Folkman’s War: Angiogenesis and the Struggle to Defeat Cancer

“Ricks does a good job of explaining what lies behind much inaccurate information. … Breast Cancer Basics and Beyond is an excellent resource I can confidently recommend.”

– Strong Voices, Breast Cancer Fund

“This is an excellent and very comprehensive resource for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and for all consumers who want to be well informed about this disease. The author, Delthia Ricks, has provided basic information in an understandable style while also addressing key controversial issues. The book is written from a consumer perspective with strong messages of advocacy and empowerment. The content spans the experience of breast cancer from diagnosis through recurrence and there is detailed information about treatment options and other resources. The in-depth exploration of breast cancer is matched by excellent case examples that bring the voice of the breast cancer survivor throughout the text.”

– Dr. Betty Ferrell, PhD, FAAN

Research Scientist

City of Hope National Medical Center

A National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center

“Ricks, senior medical writer at New York’s Newsday, hopes to “cut through the myths, sensationalism, and scare-mongering” associated with breast cancer with this comprehensive guidebook. She considers the newest therapies and those in development and includes sidebars and headings that make finding information easy. Ricks is especially bent on removing the accusatory attitude that women are responsible for their illness. Highly recommended.”

– Library Journal

Published by
Hunter House Publishers
PO Box 2914, Alameda CA 94501
(510) 865-5282
email: [email protected]

Breast Cancer Basics and Beyond: Treatments, Resources, Self-Help, Good News, Updates

Delthia Ricks, M.S.

Category: Health / Chronic Illness / Cancer

Publication Date: August 2005

ISBN 0-89793-454-7/ Paperback $15.95

5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches / 384 Pages

Available in bookstores nationwide or by calling 1-800-266-5592

Alan Gray is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of NewsBlaze Daily News and other online newspapers. He prefers to edit, rather than write, but sometimes an issue rears it’s head and makes him start pounding the keyboard. Alan has a fascination with making video and video editing, so watch out if he points his Canon 7d in your direction.