Read an Excerpt
Breast Cancer For Dummies
By Ronit Elk Monica Morrow
John Wiley & Sons
Copyright © 2003
Ronit Elk, Monica Morrow
All right reserved.
Tackling Breast Cancer
One Step at a Time
* * *
In This Chapter
* Getting through the shock of finding out
* Understanding your diagnosis
* Predicting your treatment and outcome
* Preparing for treatment
* Moving on to the rest of your life
* * *
Breast cancer. Just hearing those words is enough to send a shiver down
any woman's spine. Everyone has known at least one friend or family
member with the disease, and tragically, so many people have had a loved
one who fought bravely, but in the end, lost her battle with the disease. You
probably felt deeply for those women and their families, and most likely
helped them in one way or another.
But this time, it's different. If you picked up this book, you're likely the one
who felt a lump in the shower the other day or had a mammogram that your
doctor said looked suspicious and now wants you to have more tests. Or
maybe the worst thing you can imagine has happened: Your doctor just told
you that you have breast cancer, and you're still in shock. Questions are
whirling through your head:
And when you're in shock (which is a completely normal reaction under
these circumstances), processing information becomes difficult. You can hear
the doctor's words, but they seem to fly right over your head. You just can't
seem to grasp what he or she is saying. You heard "breast cancer" and something
about "surgery" and "prognosis," and that's where everything stopped.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you've
come to the right place. We'll guide you through the process of getting better
every step of the way, from diagnosis all the way to the rest of your life.
Staring Right Back at the
The impact of the news that you have breast cancer may feel overwhelming
at the moment. The key to dealing with this overwhelming news is tackling it
one step at a time; taking it piece-by-piece, in little chunks. You may think
that you need to act immediately, but that seldom is the case, and your
doctor will let you know when it is. Chapter 4 gives you the basics about
breast cancer; that's a good place to start getting a grip on what's happening.
And check out Chapter 18, which tells you what to expect in terms of emotions
and how you can deal with them.
Searching for Treatment
You have time to read about your treatment options and who will serve as
members of your treatment team. Chapter 9 talks about treatment options
and your team (just call yourself coach). In fact, Part III features chapters that
describe the different treatment options, how effective they are, and what
their side effects are like. You discover more about which route you may
wind up taking: chemotherapy, radiation, or hormone therapy. And what
about surgery? Chapter 10 talks about the different surgical options and
describes who the candidates are for each of those options.
Take the time to think and feel. Give yourself a week or two to find out about
your cancer and what it entails (what kind of cancer it is, what stage it's in,
whether it's spread to your lymph nodes or other organs, and so on), consider
all your options, and then begin working on your treatment plans.
Predicting Your Prognosis
You need to realize that part of the reason you're suffering from uncontrollable
fear and anxiety is that you don't know what you can expect to happen.
Understanding your particular diagnosis can help you feel more empowered.
Chapter 6 helps you read your pathology report, and Chapter 8 helps you
get into the nitty-gritty by answering that nagging question: "What are my
The three important factors that you need to recognize when talking about
your predicted outcome or prognosis are that
how large numbers of women in similar circumstances have done in the
past. And besides, many other factors can influence your individual
mean that you'll live only 5 (or 10 or 20) years; it's just a way of measuring
outcomes. The survival rate tells you what percentage of women with
breast cancer live at least 5 or 10 years after being diagnosed. But
remember that many of these women live much, much longer.
The full details about the five stages of breast cancer can be found in Chapter 7.
Knowing about the particular stage of your breast cancer points to what your
treatment options are and what your prognosis is likely to be.
Talking with Family and Friends
So you're a wreck. What about your partner? And the kids? They know that
Straight talk is the best policy. Be upfront with your partner and other members
of your family, talking about your fears. Chapter 19 can help you do just
that. Your partner, family, and friends are all so intent on helping you that you
wonder just how you're going to be able to help them do that. Sit them down
with Chapter 20, which we've written just for them. And what about the kids?
If you don't tell the kids what's going on, they'll let their imaginations provide
them with the answers, and you can bet they'll think of something much
worse than anything you could have thought of. But how are you supposed
to tell them without scaring them? Fortunately, child psychologists have
studied this for many years, and in Chapter 21, we provide you with many
helpful insights and suggestions.
Seeking Out Others
After you know where you're headed, you can seek help. Countless support
groups and programs are in place across the country to provide you with the
help you need, and most of them are staffed by cancer survivors. Don't hesitate
about getting in touch with them. We list many of these helpful resources
in Chapter 23, and be sure to check out Chapter 20, where we tell you where
and how you can build support. Take a look at many of the Survivors' Secrets
(they're marked with a special icon) throughout this book for words of
inspiration from breast cancer survivors who've been in your shoes and
know the ropes.
In addition to person-to-person contact, consider complementary therapies.
So many breast cancer survivors have found that yoga, meditation, and
breathing exercises have sustained their spirits and strength. That's why in
Chapter 14 we describe some of these methods, so you can choose the one
that's right for you. After you find the ones that fit your needs, use them and
see how wonderful they make you feel.
Taking Care of Business
The final step before beginning your treatment is getting everything in your
life in order, so you can focus only on getting better. As tough as that may
sound, the reality is that money, insurance, and your job must be addressed
even though you may not feel like facing those issues right now. That's why in
Chapter 17 we review your insurance benefits, help you plan your financial
future, and tell you which laws afford you what kind of protection and where
and how to apply for financial support.
Moving Forward with the
Rest of Your Life
So you've completed your treatment, and now, you're wondering what happens
next. A long, wonderful journey lies ahead, but the two stumbling blocks
that you need to watch for are the fear of recurrence and rekindling intimacy
with your partner.
Being afraid of a recurrence is natural, but handling that fear wisely is another
story. It is possible to predict your likelihood of recurrence, but realizing
that not all recurrences are the same is just as important. Your prognosis of
recovery after a recurrence varies according to the type and extent of the
recurrence. All these aspects of your encounter with breast cancer are discussed
in Chapter 16, including how to fight a recurrence if you ever do have
to face it.
Somewhere between juggling your new outlook post-treatment and stifling
your fear of recurrence, you realize that you have a partner and a remaining
sense of sexuality! Although you may know it's time to reconnect, intimacy
following breast cancer surgery and treatment can be intimidating for many.
Don't let that stop the joy that being close with your partner can bring. In
Chapter 19, we candidly discuss the stumbling blocks and embarrassing
moments, but more important, we explain how to move beyond those roadblocks
to experience once again the ecstasy that joining together can bring.
Sharing your journey: Surveying the statistics
More than two million cancer survivors live in
the United States. Yes, that means women who
have gone through the journey you're about to
embark upon and who have not only survived
but also thrived. Most of these courageous
women have gone on to lead meaningful, productive
lives. Some still are struggling to reach
the five-year mark, and, of course, some are like
you; they've just been diagnosed with the disease.
No matter where on their journey they
are, a community of survivors stands ready to
share its wisdom, supporting you in your times
of sadness and celebrating each of your many
On the other hand, statistics are startling: Other
than cancers of the skin, breast cancer is the
most common form of cancer among women. In
fact, one of every three cancers diagnosed in
women in the United States is breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society predicts that in
2003, about 211,300 women (and 1,300 men) will
be newly diagnosed with invasive breast
cancer (or cancer that has the potential to
spread outside of the breast). Another 39,000
women will be diagnosed with noninvasive
cancer (or cancerous cells that lack the ability
to spread outside the breast).
If you're like most people, you're wondering,
"Will I live?" As many as 39,000 women (and 400
men) died from breast cancer in 2002. It is the
second leading cause of cancer deaths among
women. But here's some good news: Most
women do not die from breast cancer, and your
journey won't be the same as anyone else's. Your
individual prognosis (outcome) depends on many
factors, and in Part II of this book, we discuss the
probable course of your disease and your recovery.
The chances are good that you'll make a full
recovery and go on to live a full and fulfilled life,
especially if your cancer is detected early.
Excerpted from Breast Cancer For Dummies
by Ronit Elk Monica Morrow
Copyright © 2003 by Ronit Elk, Monica Morrow.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.