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Fighting Cancer with Knowledge and Hope

Fighting Cancer with Knowledge and Hope: A Guide for Patients, Families, and Health Care Providers, Second Edition

Illustrations by Gale V. Parsons
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Fighting Cancer with Knowledge and Hope
    Book Description:

    Anyone who is diagnosed with cancer receives a frightening blow, and in many cases the diagnosis is accompanied by a bewildering array of treatment choices. In this invaluable book, a compassionate and knowledgeable physician explains what cancer is, which factors determine a patient's prognosis, how cancer treatments work to eradicate cancer, why they sometimes fail, and what patients can do to optimize their own survival.

    The second edition of this essential resource for patients and their families discusses new treatment options that have become available, including targeted therapies, immune therapies, and personalized cancer medicine. Information on the types of medicines used to fight cancer has been completely updated and revised; also included is a new section on alternative cancer therapies.

    Winner of the 2010 American Medical Writers Association Medical Book Award in the Health Care Professionals-Nonphysician category

    Winner of the 2010 Will Solimene Award for Excellence in Medical Communication, given by the New England Chapter of the American Medical Writers Association

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19093-9
    Subjects: Public Health, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Edmundo Bendezu

    Fighting Cancer with Knowledge and Hopeprovides you with the information you need to survive cancer. But above everything else, Dr. Frank gives you the wisdom to knock out the despair and depression brought on by cancer. He gives you a needed dose of tranquillity.

    Dr. Frank does something very important in this book, and that is to truly demystify cancer. I am not in favor of using that word without an explanation. Demystification evaporates the mystery of cancer, so that you can see clearly and stand courageously wherever you are. Fear disappears, because you finally come to understand the...

  4. Preface to the Second Edition
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Preface to the First Edition
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  7. PART I Exposing Cancer

    • 1 First Steps
      (pp. 3-12)

      When Cheryl was diagnosed with lung cancer, it came as a complete shock. She was always healthy, ate the right foods, maintained a trim physique, and exercised regularly. Plus, she had never smoked. When she developed a persistent cough six months before I met her, her primary care physician treated her with antibiotics for possible bronchitis. The cough did not improve, so a chest X-ray was performed. This showed an abnormality in the right lung, and a CT scan followed. The findings were startling. The right lung was dotted with multiple little tumors throughout, with a dominant mass where the...

    • 2 What Is Cancer?
      (pp. 13-27)

      What is cancer?Cancer is a disease caused by the growth and spread in our bodies of cells that do not know how to die.

      All cancers begin with the conversion of one cell from a normal state into a cancerous state. During this process, which in most cases takes many years, the changing cell acquires three main properties that distinguish it as a cancer cell. These three essential properties are the defining characteristics of the disease. Normal cells have none of these properties. The three properties are:

      1. An unlimited capacity for growth;

      2. An inability to die; and

      3. An ability...

    • 3 Diagnosis, Staging, Curability
      (pp. 28-58)

      I first met John when he walked into my office with his children for a consultation. He was in his sixties, of average build, with a gentle face, curly gray-black hair, and the appearance of someone whose work was physical. He wore jeans and a T-shirt with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in one side. His hands were rough, his talk straight. I would later come to know him as a happy, garrulous, backslapping man, a man’s man who would do anything for his friends and family. In time, he would come to treat me as a son and...

    • 4 Understanding Specific Cancers
      (pp. 59-91)

      Donna, a forty-five-year-old teacher, feels a lump in her breast. She has surgery to remove the mass, and the pathology shows a lymphoma. Donna is surprised and asks, “Do I have breast cancer?” The answer is no, she has lymphoma of the breast, not breast cancer. Her staging workup, treatment options, and prognosis will follow the principles established for lymphoma, not those for breast cancer. She will not have to undergo more surgery to test the lymph nodes in the armpit for cancer in a procedure termed axillary lymph node dissection; she will not need a bone scan to check...

    • 5 Why Cancer Develops
      (pp. 92-122)

      The wife of a patient of mine with lung cancer asked to speak to me in private. A wife and mother, Melissa was battling to keep her husband alive and her family intact. She was experiencing sleepless nights and needed answers to a number of burning questions. Melissa was trying to come to terms with what could have caused her husband’s cancer at the early age of forty-six. He was a virile man, an outdoorsman and construction worker, the kind of person everyone likes instantly because of his easygoing manner and giving smile. He was also a three-pack-a-day cigarette smoker,...

  8. PART II Attacking Cancer

    • 6 How Cancer Grows: The Basis of Cancer Treatments
      (pp. 125-136)

      A fifty-five-year-old man feels a twinge in his back while golfing. The pain persists and begins to pierce his abdomen. Soon after, he is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and learns that the tumor is too large to be surgically removed. He asks, “How could I be so sick and not know it? Does cancer grow overnight?”

      A forty-year-old woman with breast cancer undergoes surgery to remove the cancer. Afterward, the surgeon tells her, “The surgery went very well, I got all of it. But you should see the oncologist for chemotherapy.” The patient asks, “Why do I need chemo if...

    • 7 Cancer Treatments Revolve around Metastasis
      (pp. 137-166)

      Anyone who has tried to learn about cancer soon realizes that the disease and the drugs used to combat it are overwhelmingly complicated. Yet the vast world of cancer drug therapy mainly revolves around one aspect: metastasis. Metastasis is the process by which a cancer spreads from its origin to other locations in the body; “metastases” represent the tumors in these distant locales. Cancer treatments center on the principle that metastases need to be either treated or prevented. This is because the presence of cancer in regions beyond its original location often does the most harm.

      Many cancers are first...

    • 8 Cancer Treatments at Work
      (pp. 167-199)

      At the end of a hectic day not long ago, I was asked to consult on an urgent case: an eighty-eight-year-old hospitalized patient who was in a coma. The referring doctor, a caring physician, stated bluntly, “He’s very sick and close to death. The scans show widespread cancer, though we haven’t done a biopsy. Given his age, I think the best way to proceed is hospice, and I’ve recommended this to his sons. They’re very realistic but want to meet with an oncologist for closure.”

      The patient, Abe, was a retired dentist who had been living with his wife in...

    • 9 Personalized Cancer Medicine: Tailoring Treatment to the Patient
      (pp. 200-210)

      The term “personalized cancer medicine” (PCM) is one that cancer patients and physicians will hear a lot of in coming years. Unfortunately, it is being used by the cancer community in different ways, which I will attempt to clarify. Ideally, it means treating each patient according to the unique genetic signature of his or her cancer. Since every patient is unique, every cancer is likewise unique. This is the ultimate goal of PCM, and it makes great sense. However, in contrast to normal cells, most cancers have been found to have thousands of DNA changes. Not all changes are critical,...

    • 10 Harnessing the Immune System
      (pp. 211-224)

      It is considered the Holy Grail of cancer treatment: harnessing a patient’s own immune system to fight his or her cancer. No need for endless cancer drugs, radiation, and surgery. No more side effects. Cancer is eradicated naturally. Life is good. But of course, it is not so simple.

      Ever since 1891, when a young surgeon named William Coley injected cancerous tumors with bacteria (“Coley’s toxins”) in a failed effort to activate a patient’s immune system against his or her tumor, cancer researchers and immunologists have been trying to trigger an effective and safe immune response to cancer. The difficulties...

    • 11 Get Prepared to Survive
      (pp. 225-238)

      At our cancer center we have a ritual to celebrate the completion of each of our patients’ cancer treatments. When the last chemotherapy bag has run dry, the oncology nurse escorts him or her to a bell located at the entrance of the infusion suite.

      An announcement goes forth: “They’re going to ring the bell!” There is a flurry of happy scurrying as staff members rush to join family and friends to witness the momentous occasion. If it’s a woman, she may don a diamond tiara (the ninety-nine-cent kind); if it’s a man, he’ll probably skip that part of the...

  9. Appendix 1: Types of Cancer Medicine
    (pp. 239-243)
  10. Appendix 2: For More Information
    (pp. 244-246)
  11. Glossary
    (pp. 247-252)
  12. References
    (pp. 253-272)
  13. Index
    (pp. 273-306)