Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book

CURE, Winter 2010, Volume 9, Issue 4

A review of the fifth and latest version of Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book.

Susan Love, MD, has to be in a category all by herself when it comes to breast cancer credentials. An outspoken breast surgeon, activist, researcher and author, Love makes clear that her goal is not a better mousetrap; rather, she wants to get rid of the mice—or at least figure out how to keep them from invading the premises in the first place.

Love’s credentials say it all. She is clinical professor of surgery at UCLA, president of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, a founder of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, creator of the Love/Avon Army of Women and author of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book, which is now in its fifth edition.

Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book has traced the evolution of breast cancer since its first edition 20 years ago. There is no better testament to the increasing complexity—as well as how far we have come in a number of areas—than the newest edition. The fifth edition came out in October 2010 and is 116 pages longer than the fourth edition. Love says it has 500 pages more than the first edition.

She addresses this expansion in the book’s introduction when she points to the progress this edition represents, calling it more than an update, “it represents a shift in the paradigm we use to think about the breast and its problems.”

First, Love explains, is the understanding that all breast cancers are not the same. “There are at least five or six different molecular subtypes and each probably develops from a different step in the evolution of a tumor stem cell.”

Second, is the realization that “cancer cells do not function in isolation.” They need, as Love puts it, a local environment that nourishes them.

From the end of the introduction to the appendices in the back of the book, Love provides clear, detailed information on every aspect of breasts and breast cancer, including basic anatomy of the healthy breast, prevention, risk factors, diagnosis, decisions around breast cancer and treatment options, lifestyle changes, complementary medicine and living with recurrent disease.

At 736 pages with appendices, glossary and index there is nothing this book doesn’t cover. What I like most about this book is Love’s writing style. If she feels a certain way about information, she says so. It’s easy to read even when the information is medical.

The New York Times called the fourth edition of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book “the bible for women with breast cancer.” If it’s possible to think of an expanded version of the bible, this is it.

The additional pages of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book is a good indication of how much more we know about breast cancer than we have in the past.