Kimlin Tam Ashing, Ph.D.
Breast cancer deaths have dropped nearly 40 percent over the last three decades. And while we can celebrate that good news during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are other statistics that are still troubling: Over a quarter of a million women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the U.S. and more than 40,000 will lose their fight against the dreadful disease.
But a new book, “Detecting & Living with Breast Cancer For Dummies
,” from City of Hope researcher Kimlin Tam Ashing, Ph.D.
(and co-author Marshalee George, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins), offers women sound advice on managing the disease.
“In the book, we wanted to give survivors a handheld practical guide for hopeful living, with information and resources to help them get optimal care and really live their healthiest life possible after this illness and its treatments.”
Ashing, who lost both parents to cancer and has two brothers currently battling the disease, says her family’s history gave her a very personal commitment to oncology work and survivorship.
She is the founding director of the Center of Community Alliance for Researchers & Education (CCARE)
at City of Hope, and a psychologist who specializes in cancer inequality and health disparities.
“We wanted to give survivors and their loved ones some tools to deal with not only the immediate diagnosis and treatment but some of the long-term impacts,” she said.
The book walks you through the entire process, from diagnosis to treatments to survivorship. It tries to outline every possible scenario, often accompanied by informative tables, graphs and illustrations.
There are chapters on the psychosocial component and managing the stress and emotional toll of dealing with breast cancer in everyday life.
“The book offers survivors strategies and encouragement to take charge of their health care so that they can affect their quality of care and their satisfaction with their care,” Ashing said. “It’s important [for patients] to remind their care team that they are whole persons and need support around self-care that includes symptom management, mood changes, nutrition, physical activity and getting the right follow-up care.”
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), one in eight women are at risk of developing breast cancer. Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical and scientific officer for the ACS, said Ashing’s book is an important resource for that very reason: It tackles issues beyond diagnosis, treatment and surgery, diving deeper into the social, sexual and psychological aspects of the disease.
“Those are the things that are still frequently overlooked,” Brawley said. “Doctors especially are fixated on killing cancer and frequently not enough focus is on taking care of the patient and this book actually helps in the area of taking care of the patient.”
Brawley said people don’t just need information about the disease, they need to understand how to apply that information.
“There’s a lot of information out there, so patients can acquire knowledge,” he said. “But there’s limited information out there about how to apply
that knowledge. This book is about how to apply that knowledge.”
In a chapter on risk factors, Ashing and her co-author address health disparities around race and ethnicity. African-American women and other women of color are at increased risk of breast cancer at younger ages. African-American women are also more likely to die of the disease.
“There are many factors that contribute to poor outcomes,” Ashing said. “It’s in every aspect of care. It’s challenges in the screening process, delays in diagnosis and treatment and lack of access to the best treatment.”
Patients and caregivers will find the book peppered with tips, things to remember and even warnings. It's designed to help them make decisions and gives them the tools that will empower them to ask the right questions and be proactive about their breast health.
“Each section hopefully has some golden nugget to address what people's needs are at the moment,” Ashing said. “But I’m particularly excited that we tried to be comprehensive. We really thought about the whole person and tried to at least honor all of our humanity in this journey.”
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