October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and about one in eight women in the U.S. will get breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. This October, we’re bringing you new information and advice from the experts about this disease. If you, or someone in your life, has breast cancer, it can be challenging to stay positive and motivated. That’s why we talked to Janet Maker, Ph.D. and author of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Breast Cancer: Take Care of Your Recovery and Remission, to find out how women can stay empowered during their treatment. Here’s our interview:


How do you encourage patients to say empowered and encouraged during their treatment?

I highly recommend joining a breast cancer support group as a source of both information and emotional support. Some groups, such as the Cancer Support Community, meet in person, and you can also join an online group, such as breastcancer.org.


What advice do you give people who are just starting their breast cancer treatment?

A good way to get started is by educating yourself about the type of breast cancer you have: You can go to websites like the National Cancer Institute or American Cancer Society and start reading and noting any questions. This will give you a basis to interact more responsibly with your doctors—you will be able to ask good questions and evaluate whether you are getting good answers.


How can family members and friends support patients and help them feel empowered?

I recommend inviting the patient to call on you if she needs anything or if she just wants to talk. In general, it’s better to listen than to give your opinions or advice, but you can encourage her to trust her own feelings and seek out information.


What should women know about taking control of their health and cancer treatment?

They should thoroughly research their treatment options as well as their doctors and hospitals before making decisions. They can read how to do it on my website.


Do you have any advice to young women who have the BRCA gene? How do you recommend they stay empowered as the consider their preventative options?

If you have a BRCA gene, I recommend that you get genetic counseling to thoroughly understand your risk and your options before you make any decisions.


Going in for a breast exam or mammogram soon? Here’s a tip from Janet: One thing to be aware of is that, according to the website Are You Dense?, mammograms miss half of all breast cancers in the 40% of women who have dense breast tissue; and having high breast density is a greater risk factor than having two first-degree relatives with breast cancer.


Have a question for Janet? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll pass it along!


Janet Maker, Ph.D., is author of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Breast Cancer: Take Charge

of Your Recovery and Remission, winner of 10 book awards. It is a comprehensive guide for

women seeking to understand the range of options for breast cancer care, providing resources

and information they need to make the best decisions about their own treatment and the best

ways to stay in remission.

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