Reviewed by: Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: May 12, 2006
This is the second book in Dr. Vladimir Lange's Be a Survivor ™ series (the first was a breast cancer guide). This comprehensive guide takes the reader on a tour of life with colon or rectal cancer, and can be used by a patient or by family and friends as a step-by-step guide to get a better understanding of what the patient is going through. The first chapter details reaction to the diagnosis and the steps to take to inform family and friends, gathering medical opinions and decision-making. This chapter offers invaluable advice, as people unfamiliar with the medical system don't often know where to begin, let alone the steps to take to ensure that decisions are made in their best interest.
Chapter Two describes the biology of colorectal cancer, using color diagrams and easy to understand descriptions. The next 8 chapters review diagnosis and staging, surgical options (for both colon and rectal cancers), chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and complementary therapies. Each chapter includes questions to ask of the doctor and quotes from actual patients, whose reactions to each topic are presented throughout the book. The information is up-to-date, discussing current therapy options and the possible side effects. A short section addresses participation in clinical trials, dispelling the myths of being "the guinea pig".
Once treatment is over, patients often have a sense of feeling lost; the frequent visits to the doctor are gone, and so is the feeling of a safety net. Dr. Lange did not forget this, and includes information on follow-up and monitoring after treatment, helping to put a patient at ease. Having been the caregiver for his wife during her breast cancer diagnosis, Dr. Lange knows the importance of this role and includes a chapter for the patient's partner, spouse, or other caregiver. Any cancer survivor would tell you the important part this person played in their treatment, but this job does not come easy to most. This chapter talks about the caregivers' roles in this process, what they can expect, and how to care for themselves.
The book ends with a glossary, resource guide (including websites and other books), and tear- out pages of the questions to ask your doctor, with room for note-taking. I would highly recommend this book for anyone faced with a colon or rectal cancer diagnosis and for their friends and family.