Laughlin, a doctor, presents a revised edition of his 2001 alphabetized catalog covering oncology topics from a patient’s perspective. The book has entries on diagnoses, medications, treatment types and side effects, ranging from ablative therapy (cancer treatment that uses extreme cold or heat instead of radiation) to Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (a disorder involving excessive gastric acid production that leads to painful ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding, and a possible symptom of stomach cancer). Each entry offers an overview and provides context in terms of cancer pathology and treatment. Some entries debunk myths with passing references to medical studies, such as the entry for “fruit intake,” which indicates that a study of 9,000 cancer patients showed that a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables offers “little to no protection from cancer” in adults. Laughlin also includes terms that highlight cancer’s ripple effects: Sufferers of bone cancer and other metastatic cancers are likely to suffer from bones that “fracture.” Longer entries cover oncology basics, such as “radiation therapy,” “staging” and “tumor marker.” Through these terms, readers unfamiliar with epidemiology will be able to piece together a disease’s origins and behaviors and get a glimpse into the treatment process. Although the guide often eschews medical jargon, the informal, passive voice and occasional oncology vocabulary (such as the use of the term “osteogenic sarcoma” rather than “bone cancer”) can sometimes make the guide feel clinical rather than consolatory. The middle section breaks down oncology terms into specific cancer types, with sections describing risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and staging in detail, and the final section groups support services by category, with contact information listed alphabetically. The listing of agencies helpfully points to organizations and hospitals that specialize in certain cancers or provide particular services, such as Camp Keser, a free sleep-away camp in California for kids whose parents have cancer.
An often useful primer for readers dealing with a recent cancer diagnosis.