This book has taken the subject of breast cancer and broken it down into to little fragments of information. At the centre of all this is a person with their ideals, spiritual beliefs, opinions and fears. They are part of a family and community. Their care has to take that into account.

The needs of male patients are similar and different to those of women. As most patients with breast problems are women, the chapter will continue to refer to female patients.

Everyone has to be treated holistically.

What does holism mean?

Holism means that any woman should be treated as a complete person. She should not be treated as a disease or as an organ. It means treating the person with the illness not the illness in the person, thus treating body mind and spirit .

Women are often the middle of a family. The family is part of a community.

In order to help any patient, you must know what support she has, who she is supporting and how she feels about her problems. Ask her about her spiritual beliefs. As a health practitioner, you must listen to her concerns in order to be able to help her deal with her fears.

A woman may be scared even if she doesn’t have cancer. Often this is because of the stigma that is attached to the word cancer and we need to be aware of all these beliefs that impact women with cancer.

Alternative healers

Many women will have seen an alternative practitioner or started treating themselves. Encourage her to tell you who she has seen and what advice she was given. Find out if she is taking any other treatment.

This book has concentrated on a conventional medical approach to the management of breast problems and so does not go into the many treatments and supplements used for the prevention and management of breast diseases.

Many medications and supplements can interfere with cancer drugs.

Community groups and networking

Breast cancer is a highly politicised disease. There are thousands of organisations involved with breast cancer issues throughout the world. What is important is to know which ones are in your area and which ones are relevant to your patient’s needs.

Organisations involved with cancer issues tend to concentrate on different areas:

  1. Education/awareness
  2. Support
  3. Advocacy


Campaigns may be aimed at patients, relatives, healthcare workers or the general public. Before starting on an education programme, decide who is to be educated and what you feel they should understand. It is generally better to try and get a few clear points across rather than to try everything.

If possible, educate people in their own language using local resources. Little bits of information are often better than long essays. Use breast cancer survivors for the campaigns.


All people need support. When the diagnosis of cancer has been made, it is very important to make sure that good support structures are in place. There are many ways to get the support.

It is our duty to offer any support we can but we have to understand that some women do not want to see another healthcare worker.

Most people are part of a community: religious organisations, schools or sports groups. Breast cancer is so common that there is often someone within the group who has had breast cancer. They may become an informal support for the woman.


Advocacy means campaigning for a cause. It may mean using political channels. A more sensible definition should include identifying a problem and fighting to get the problem solved.

There have been many examples of how breast cancer care has been improved by women fighting for their cause. It is important to spend energy and money on making a real change for the women in the community. The health issues faced by women in the developed world are very different from those in the developing world.

‘It always seems impossible until it is done’ – Nelson Mandela

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