Review by Diane Donovan for Midwest Book Review, California bookwatch

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Breast Cancer: Take Charge of Your Recovery and Remission comes from an author who was surprised to be diagnosed with breast cancer (a shock because she had no family history of the disease) and who immediately faced a plethora of medical choices about chemo, radiation, surgery, and aggressive treatment options.

Though she admitted ignorance on the subject, she wanted to make her own informed decisions outside of immediate recommendations, and so she began a research process which was to ultimately translate not just into a personal program of treatment, but a series of strategies for filtering through and understanding cancer research information. These approaches form the foundation of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Breast Cancer, which should be read by any woman diagnosed with breast cancer.

Readers should anticipate not a ‘how to’ title, but a blend of autobiography and investigation as Janet Maker, Ph.D. discusses her journey through the world of medical diagnostic procedures and cancer treatments. Chapters discuss how she made her own choices and, even more importantly, highlight the knowledge she holds today that might, in hindsight, have influenced or changed these decisions. Perhaps most telling of all comes from the author’s own words in her preface: “This is the book I wished I had when I needed it.”

Including details on specific kinds of tests that yield helpful information and yet are often not a part of the diagnosis process (such as the Oncotype DX, specifically recommended for select postmenopausal women with invasive breast cancers, or the Caris test (where tumor slides receive genetic analysis), the wealth of specifics offered here demand slow reading, as they hold much information that likely will be new to readers.

Janet Maker didn’t just question her oncologists: she rooted out information from oncology nurses and professional resources, read about new theories and research, and thus offers many specifics lacking in similar-sounding cancer books, such as insights on the value of anti-angiogenesis programs: “If the markers go up, an anti-angiogenic program could be reintroduced. This, of course, is very relevant to me, with my high tumor markers. I was unfortunately not started on an anti-angiogenesis program before surgery, but I should be on one now.”

After treatment with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormones is over, conventional oncology considers its work finished. The only thing it offers is tests to see whether the cancer has come back. The problem is that, if it has come back, it will likely have metastasized to other organs and no longer be considered curable. Therefore, it is important to prevent from returning, and conventional oncology offers very little in that regard. Because Janet is at high risk for recurrence and metastasis, she works with an integrative oncologist to try to keep herself in remission. Integrative oncologists believe that there is a second part to cancer treatment: to make the body resistant to cancer. Based on regular blood tests, Janet follows an individualized program of diet, supplements, exercise, stress reduction, and avoidance of environmental carcinogens. This information is shared with readers who may want to make similar choices.

As Janet learned about environmental carcinogens and began making the lifestyle changes required to avoid them, she became aware of the corporations responsible for the carcinogens in the environment, research funded by the corporations, legislators who rely on corporate contributions to keep their jobs, and the cancer charities that take corporate money in return for pinkwashing. She works only with breast cancer charities that focus on corporate and government accountability and cancer prevention, and she avoids those that blame the victims’ genetics or lifestyle for getting cancer.

The result is far beyond an autobiography of experience and delves into the worlds of latest research applications, best practices, and treatments every breast cancer patient should know about before they make decisions. This highly recommended pick should be in every general lending library and in every health or women’s issues collection.

Diane Donovan
Editor, Midwest Book Review

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