Review: A Guide to Survivorship for Women Who Have Ovarian Cancer

A Johns Hopkins Health Book, 2nd Edition, Edited by Dr. Robert E. Bristow, Dr. Terri L. Cornelison, Dr. F.J. Montz, 2015

Review by Whitney Boland

September is ovarian cancer awareness month, a great time to learn more about the disease. Although ovarian cancer lags behind breast cancer in terms of research and funding, there is still a mountain of research to weed through, and it can be overwhelming and difficult to find.

Historically, the only option for women newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer was to turn to doctors and ask them questions directly. But in order to do that, you also have to know what to ask. So the real question then becomes, “Where do I begin?”


An easy first step might be to read the book, A Guide to Survivorship for Women Who Have Ovarian Cancer. Originally published in 2005 by Johns Hopkins University with portions written by doctors who are longtime HERA supporters, the second significantly updated edition of the book was released in 2015. While its authors tout the book as a “guide”, it is truly a companion. Stacked with information and incredibly readable, it tackles the daunting task of compiling key information and presenting it in a way that allows women to explore the expectations and also the mysteries of ovarian cancer.

The book starts with the basics — what is ovarian cancer, what are the different types, what does “staging” mean (i.e. stage I, stage II), what is debulking surgery — and moves seamlessly forward as if you were listening to a doctor, a mentor and a friend. It moves through what to expect of the diagnosis process, treatment and post treatment. Did you know that one-third of women who later get diagnosed with ovarian cancer had symptoms for more than six months before diagnosis? Or that the chances a woman will have an optimal debulking surgery is three times higher if the surgeon is a gynecological oncologist (these guys are all highly trained surgeons) rather than a general surgeon?

Between the meaty chapters are short perspective pieces from ovarian cancer survivors chronicling their life experiences. These personal accounts help set up the information presented in the subsequent chapter while also adding a real-life element to the litany of information by providing insight into some of the hardest questions to really answer — what will it be like?

Whether you’re wondering what you should expect from chemotherapy, or what alternative therapies might help enhance post-diagnosis quality of living, or even what chemo-brain is, these and many more questions are answered in this book.

“This book is written so that those diagnosed with ovarian cancer will have someplace to turn for empowering information,” says Jill Slansky, a Professor of Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine as well as a member of the HERA Board of Directors. “It provides an accessible way to get information without having to call the doctors directly the way Sean [Patrick] used to do. The book has critically important information for diagnosed women and their well care-takers.”

What to check out more? Get the book directly from Johns Hopkins Library.

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