American Cancer Society Consumers Guide to Cancer Drugs

John Han-Chih Chang, MD
University of Pennsylvania Health System
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Authors: Gail M. Wilkes, RN, MS, AOCN; Terri B. Ades, RN, MS, AOCN; Irwin Krakoff, MD
Publisher: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc., Massachusetts, 2000
ISBN: 0-7637-1170-5

OncoLink Rating: 3 Stars

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This book was developed for cancer patients and their loved ones, to answer any questions they may have concerning cancer drugs. As the authors put it, this text "is intended as a reference for cancer patients and the people who care about them. It is not intended as a self-diagnostic tool, and should be used only as a supplement to the information you receive from your doctor." It is very well researched and comprehensive; it was written by two nurses and a physician, and reviewed by an editorial review board consisting of three physicians. The book is endorsed by the American Cancer Society.

Chemotherapy can be a frightening prospect for many cancer patients, so before delving into the multitude of different drugs, the book begins with an essay explaining chemotherapy. The essay describes what chemotherapy is, and how it affects cancer cells on a molecular level. It explains the various manners in which chemotherapy can be administered, describes possible side effects, and ends with references to allow the reader to delve more deeply into the subject. The essay is well written and very easy for a layperson to understand. By alleviating uncertainty, it should also alleviate a bit of fear.

Following that educational introduction, the book is basically divided into two self-explanatory sections: "Cancer Treatment Drugs" and "Symptom Management Drugs." These two sections combine to describe over 200 drugs: each drug is introduced with a brief profile, followed by a more detailed description. The description begins with the drug name and trade name. This is followed by the drug category, classification, and action; these explain how the drug is used, and how the drug works. A section is devoted to how the drug is administered. Besides supplying these facts, there are some very helpful sections as well. For instance, there is a section on what to notify one's doctor of prior to taking the medication. Also, the book mentions foods, activities, and other drugs that may produce possible interactions. Each drug description contains sections on common side effects, less common side effects, and rare side effects. A warning follows regarding certain side effects that should be reported to one's physician when taking the medication. Each drug description ends with information concerning FDA approval. The book ends with a glossary enabling the reader to further decipher some of the terminology, which is already very reader-friendly.

This reference guide provides a wealth of information to cancer patients and their loved ones. It is comprehensive and very informative. The information is concise and easy to read. As mentioned by the authors, it should always be used in conjunction with information provided by one' physician.


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