Fighting for Our Future: How Young Women Find Strength, Hope and Courage While Taking Control of Breast Cancer


B Murphy
Published by McGraw-Hill Australia (2003)
ISBN:  0-0714-0925-4.  314 pages plus index.
RRP:  A$39.95

While there is a plethora of breast cancer information resources for women and their families, some gaps remain. Fighting for our future, based on an earlier US Lifetime Television documentary, aims to fill one such gap. In writing this book for young women with breast cancer, the author is supported by an expert medical advisory board.

Given their relative youth and earlier life stage, breast cancer presents young women with particular physical, medical and emotional challenges. This book addresses many of these challenges. In particular it helps to address the isolation that many young women with breast cancer experience. Throughout the book, the voices of young women carry the central message: you are not alone.

The book addresses an extensive range of topics including: screening and diagnosis, treatment options, alternative and complementary methods of healing, support issues, body image, sexuality, fertility; workplace issues, recurrence, and breast cancer advocacy. 

Each chapter provides significant details on a range of issues, drawing on both medical expertise and women’s experience. The books emphasis is to provide information from varying and sometimes opposing perspectives, and aims to give women the information that they can use when talking with their practitioner.  Key features of each chapter are the highlighted checklist of questions, useful tips and women’s stories.

The chapters on psychosocial support, body image, relationships and sexuality, and fertility and pregnancy stand out. They address critical issues for young women that remain with them long after treatment has been completed. The chapter on reconstruction deals well with the issue of implants, the silicone controversy and different types of flap surgery. However some of the flap techniques discussed are not used regularly in Australia and may lead to confusion.

In its conversational style, the book relies on the views given by individual eminent medical experts. At times I would have preferred stronger articulation on the level of evidence underpinning their views, rather than just the expert’s stated academic qualifications and/or professional roles. Given the increasing focus on evidence-based medicine, some general discussion on levels of evidence also would have been useful for readers.

While this book provides very relevant information for young Australian women with breast cancer, an obvious limitation is its focus on the US health system. While containing some useful generic information, the workplace chapters strong focus on US workplace legislative and appeal processes also makes it less relevant to the Australian reader.

Finally, the book is long (300 pages) and would have benefited from more rigorous editing and some illustrations.

Inspite of these limitations, this book is a useful addition to the resources for young women with breast cancer and others. While relevant at any time, it may be particularly helpful when early treatment is completed and women have time to make sense of their experiences and to explore the implications of breast cancer and its treatment on their future lives.

S Hirst
Western Breast Services Alliance
Footscray, VIC

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