Colorectal Cancer: A Thorough and Compassionate Resource for Patients and Their Families
by Bernard Levin, M.D.
Random House, 1999
ISBN 0679778136 $14.95
Reviewed by Kate Murphy
Dr. Levin's book provides a simple, easily understood view of how colorectal cancer develops and is treated. His focus is on prevention of the disease and on its early detection, although he also discusses surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Preventing colorectal cancer by changing diet is an important theme. Dr. Levin says, "By some estimates, about one third of cancer deaths may be related to improper diet. Strong evidence suggests that, over the long term, making the recommended changes in diet offers a very good chance of reducing the risk of colorectal cancer."
Dr. Levin recommends a colorectal cancer prevention diet that is low in fat, accounting for no more than 30% of daily calories, high in fiber, and rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. The book provides strategies for reducing fat and increasing fiber and fruits and vegetables. It is unclear, however, in Chapter 11, Eating Right, whether Levin is addressing colorectal cancer patients or individuals who have not been diagnosed with cancer. The chapter does, however, have good strategies for increasing intake of fruits and vegetables and whole grains and reducing dietary fat. Levin offers suggested daily menus and recipes.
Since maintaining weight is so important during treatment for colorectal cancer, it is important for patients and their families to heed Dr. Levin's advice to work with a registered dietitian. Reducing fat or making significant changes in diet may not be the best course for colorectal cancer patients during treatment, when they may need additional calories or food that is familiar and tastes good.
Screening, early detection, and diagnosis are covered with clear, understandable descriptions of the procedures and should reassure people who are nervous about undergoing them.
The book's appendix includes a discussion of staging, the American Cancer Society's Recommendations for Nutrition and Cancer Prevention, and a number of additional resources and readings, including Internet websites and discussion groups.
Dr. Levin's book is a good introduction for someone seeking an understanding of colorectal cancer, particularly how it develops and the role of nutrition in its prevention. It is perhaps less useful for the patient with colorectal cancer who needs a more in-depth discussion of treatment options.
It is also important to remember that good diet alone will not eliminate all risk of colorectal cancer, and that following the guidelines for screening, as well as following up possible symptoms is critical. Too much emphasis on diet can also be discouraging to a patient with colorectal cancer who is seeking to understand why he was stricken with such a difficult disease.
At the same time, that patient will find encouragement and excellent advice in the general tips for living with colorectal cancer near the end of the book, particularly the advice to: "Continue to take advantage of life's pleasures. The more you feel your life is worth living, the better your life will be."
Kate Murphy is a member of CCA's board of directors. She is a colon, breast and ovarian cancer survivor.