The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Guide
by Dr Loh Siew Yim

ISBN: 9-789831-005286
Publisher: University of Malaya Press
Format: Paperback
185 pages Price: RM42.00

The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Guide was designed for women who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The author’s main aim was to write a book which could be used by these women as a guide to understanding the disease, as well as encouraging the women to take a proactive role in treating, managing and living with the disease.

Aptly packaged in a pretty shade of pink with the pink ribbon symbolising breast cancer awareness, this book has been neatly organised into five easy-to-read chapters with helpful pictures, tables and diagrams. Each chapter also sets out numerous questions and exercises designed to help these women understand the disease and how to manage their own recovery.

In the first section of the book, the writer introduces the reader to a rehabilitation tool called the “SAMA” (Staying Abreast Moving Ahead) programme, a “four-week self-management, rehabilitation programme facilitated by trained occupational therapists for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer”. This chapter also provides some basic information about breast cancer, risk factors, symptoms, treatment options and the potential side effects of each form of treatment. The book encourages women to work together with their healthcare professionals and keep in contact with their social support network and “assigned buddies” for the rehabilitation programme.

The second chapter makes the point that women diagnosed with breast cancer go through a myriad of emotions such as shock, denial, anger, sadness, detachment, re-organisation, adaptation and acceptance. Medical research has shown that a negative psychological state weakens the immune system and this, in turn, causes cancer cells to attack the body. It is therefore crucial that these women find a way to manage their emotions and psychological challenges. As a start, the women are taught to reinforce positive thoughts and practice relaxation techniques.

The third chapter stresses the importance of managing and maintaining mental and physical health. The author recommends that patients:

  • Exercise 3-5 times week or four hours a week, including specific arm exercises
  • Eat high-nutrient food such as fruits and vegetables of multiple colours, grains, and drink plenty of water
  • Decrease intake of dairy products, fatty foods and meats
  • Maintain a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25
  • Rest sufficiently
  • Undergo mammograms and breast exams periodically

BMI is calculated by using a person’s weight in kilograms divided by height in metres squared..

This chapter also provides tips on how to start an exercise regimen and sets out an exercise timetable that can be used by the women to chart their progress.

Chapter four of the book emphasizes the fact that having a strong support network improves the breast cancer patient’s wellbeing and enhances the recovery process. Not only does she receive physical and emotional support, she also learns how to cope with the disease. Social interaction could also help her to feel that she is not alone and give her the strength to overcome negative states of mind. The author also shares helpful tips on how to reconnect with loved ones and how to grow a social support network.

The last section of the book provides useful resources and additional information to supplement the understanding of the material in the book.

I believe that the most important message this book conveys is the fact that women with breast cancer must be more involved in their own treatment and recovery process and should be empowered to make informed decisions.

Overall, this is a well-written and well-researched book. I would definitely recommend this book for breast cancer patients in the hope that it helps these women through a difficult period in their lives.

Reviewed by Eve Lim
July 2012

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