Cancer Gene Blues: Seven Titles for October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer is all about the numbers: the infamous one in eight lifetime probability of a diagnosis, the number of lymph nodes removed, gene mutations 1 and 2, risk factor percentages, even how old one should be to start screenings. Yet, I found only seven appropriate books on the subject being released leading up to October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month (two on genetic testing, plus two reprints). Does that mean that breast cancer is nearly eradicated, eliminating the need to write and subsequently read about it? Would be nice, but I don’t believe that’s the case. Still, there is news that indicates we might be on the path to better treatment. A study reported in the journal Radiology points up the benefits of mammography in older women, such as finding cancers at earlier stages. Researchers reported in the journal Cell that classifying tumors by molecular structure rather than by the organ they inhabit could lead to more accurate diagnoses. Here’s my favorite: a gel version of the selective estrogen receptor modulator Tamoxifen, when applied directly to the breast in diagnoses of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), was as effective in slowing cancer cell growth as its pill and liquid counterparts, with fewer side effects. Read on.

pilatesforbreastcancer082914Aaronson, Naomi & Ann Marie Turo. Pilates for Breast Cancer Survivors: A Guide to Recovery, Healing, and Wellness. Demos Health. Sept. 2014. 220p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781936303571. pap. $21.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617051951. HEALTH

Two occupational therapists and pilates instructors (one of whom is also a breast cancer survivor) offer up a regimen of exercises to help women regain strength and range of motion following surgery and treatment. They discuss the principles of the practice and the benefits for cancer patients with relation to fatigue, lymphedema, “chemo brain,” and other complaints. Sections on getting started and advisories accompany each series of movements, which include those seated and in the supine position. ­VERDICT Strengthening the body and spurring recovery through pilates seems like a win-win. For patient health and fitness collections.

Behr, Marion. Surviving Cancer: Our Voices & Choices. WWH Pr. 2014. 268p. illus. index. ISBN 9780615856001. pap. $20.95. HEALTH

The story of cancer is as individual as the person relating it. Artist and breast cancer survivor Behr here includes anecdotes from patients and recommendations from physicians and medical professionals in order to provide comfort and knowledge for those on the same journey. The plastic cradles used to immobilize patients during radiation therapy serve as Behr’s inspiration and the source of the book’s artwork. With questions patients and family members should be asking (and their answers) and a useful glossary. ­VERDICT Beautifully designed, a worthwhile addition to patient health holdings.

redstarLucas, Geralyn. Then Came Life: Living with Courage, Spirit, and Gratitude After Breast Cancer. Gotham. Oct. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9781592408955. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780698162181. HEALTH

thencamelife082914Lucas made a splash with her first book, Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy (LJ 9/1/04), the brash and brazen tale of her bout with breast cancer at age 27. Now, 18 years later and recurrence free, Lucas, head of Hallie Productions, feels there is more to say about life postcancer. The candid and perceptive author talks about motherhood (she has two children, which was unexpected following her chemotherapy and radiation treatment), marriage, body image, self-worth, family, and the loss of loved ones as she ultimately seizes living over living in fear. Lipstick was made into a television movie, so fans will assuredly want to see how the author is doing. ­VERDICT Lucas’s sage commentary will bring a nod of recognition from fellow cancer travelers and a smile to everyone’s lips, even if they aren’t cherry red. Highly recommended.

Mozersky, Jessica. Risky Genes: Genetics, Breast Cancer and Jewish Identity. Routledge. Sept. 2014. 177p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781138822849. pap. $42.95; ebk. ISBN 9781136240669. HEALTH

The identification in 1994–95 of the high-risk breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 has hit a 20-year milestone. Individuals who test positive now have options with regard to the inevitability of a breast and/or ovarian cancer diagnosis. Along with the discovery came the announcement that Ashkenazi Jewish women (those of East European descent) were at higher risk of carrying the mutations and, ultimately, higher risk of developing either or both diseases. Medical researcher ­Mozersky narrowed her study to a group of Ashkenazi Jews living in London. Her goal was to use her data to “examine the ways in which knowledge of being at increased risk of genetic disease is interpreted and experienced by members of a ‘high-risk’ population” and to “address the impact of genetic knowledge on Jewish identity.” VERDICT The discussions of genetic testing and its ramifications haven’t ebbed over the last two decades, but Mozersky’s considered treatise might clarify issues for those at the center of the debate who live with uncertainty. For larger health collections that also target medical professionals and gene ­theorists.

redstarStark, Lizzie. Pandora’s DNA: Tracing the Breast pandorasdna082914Cancer Genes Through History, Science, and One Family Tree. Chicago Review. Oct. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781613748602. $26.95. HEALTH

Author/journalist Stark’s cancer family tree would send most people running for cover and a huge hole into which to crawl. We’re talking great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, and cousins. Her mother has had several types of cancer and recurrences. Stark presents a fascinating history of cancer, especially breast and ovarian, with her relatives as a frame of reference. Once genomic testing became available, it made the picture simultaneously clearer and more ominous. What’s a gal to do? VERDICT With incisive wit and a reporter’s poke at the jugular, Stark delivers the goods on this disease that though now much discussed still creates anguish in most of us. For every collection.


Braddock, Suzanne W. & others. Straight Talk About Breast Cancer. 5th ed. Addicus. Sept. 2014. 156p. illus. index. ISBN 9781940495705. pap. $19.95. HEALTH

Twenty years and five editions later, dermatologist and cancer survivor ­Braddock continues along with her physician colleagues to offer information for those going through the breast cancer process. This update expands the treatment picture and includes new photos of reconstructions and additional resources. “Accessible and up-to-date; at this price it is recommended for most patient health collections” (LJ 9/1/02). For inclusive collections and those that have only the third edition or older.

Prijatel, Patricia. Surviving Triple Negative Breast Cancer: Hope, Treatment, and Recovery. Oxford Univ. Oct. 2014. 256p. illus. index. ISBN 9780199393855. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9780199911967. HEALTH

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC)—estrogen-receptor negative, progesterone-receptor negative, and negative for the Her2/neu human epidermal growth factor receptor—is the triple whammy of cancer diagnoses. Journalist and TNBC survivor Prijatel here lays out the specifics of this rare form of the disease. Highly recommended. (LJ 9/1/12)

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Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox ( is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"