When dealing with breast cancer, and looking to prevent breast cancer, the vast amount of information and the decisions that need to be made can be overwhelming. In 1999, Dr. Marisa Weiss, a renowned breast oncologist, founded breastcancer.org to address these needs. As a non-profit organization, breastcancer.org is dedicated to providing the most reliable, complete, and up-to-date information about breast cancer. It is an excellent resource. Their mission is to help women and their loved ones make sense of the complex medical and personal information about breast health and breast cancer so that they can make the best decisions for their lives. The people behind breastcancer.org bring with them a diverse set of skills and experience, from medical experts, writers, editors, and business development experts, to designers and web producers. A Professional Advisory Board (PAB) reviews all the medical information on the website. The PAB includes over 70 practicing medical professionals from around the world who are leaders in their fields. Breastcancer.org also provides a Spanish translation of its pages on the website.
The website has vast amounts of information, but it is very well laid-out and easy to navigate.
The hub of the site is the homepage. From here, you can search for the answer to something specific, read about the latest research, find out about clinical trials, or gain a better understanding of the different aspects of breast cancer. The navigation options on the home page include:
- Search Box: If you have a specific question you are interested in, the home page and every page you access have a search box at the top of the page. This is a quick way to look for specifics. Just enter your question, and a list of results will appear for you to search through.
- Main Tabs: These will help orientate you to your particular topic. Each of the following sections has subtopics to dig deeper into information on:
- Symptoms & Diagnosis
- Treatment & Side Effects
- Day-to-Day Matters
- Lower Your Risk
- Get Involved
- Breast Cancer in the News: This area highlights any recent news on breast cancer research. Some of the information is presented as podcasts if you prefer to listen than reading.
- Think Pink, Live Green: Here you can learn about a way of living that aims to reduce the risk of breast occurrence and recurrence. It also provides information on healthy choices for women living with advanced disease.
- breastcancer.org blog is the area where you can read personal stories, healthy living tips, and topics such as caring for caregivers. It provides an insiders look from the perspective of people with breast cancer.
- Community: The website has its own community, both English and Spanish speaking where you can discuss with other members your concerns, fears, what helps, what hasn’t helped, etc. Again, this section is organized into different topics, and there are clear guidelines on how to use the forum for discussion. For example, there is a section for people “not diagnosed but worried” where members are waiting for test results can chat. You can follow the conversations of others without signing in, or if you do sign in, you can post a topic of your own, ask questions and respond to the questions of others. There’s a lot of support out there!
- Get Involved: Using the Donate button, you can provide financial support to the breastcancer.org team and the work that they do. Financial support is necessary to the continued running of the site, but breastcancer.org seems to take a low-key approach to donations. It’s a credit to the team that providing quality information and resources seems to take precedence over fundraising. The organization scores well with charity evaluator Charity Navigator; it has received a four-star rating for the last six years. That said, maybe the one negative on this site is the number of advertisements, all by big pharmaceutical companies. However, they do provide necessary financial sponsorship.
The depth of information in all these sections is incredible, including archived discussions, podcasts, conferences, etc. But a key feature that makes this site so useful is that it is all well organized. With many topics of interest and many links to other topics of interest, you could easily get lost, or side tracked and forget your train of thought. However, the site has an excellent “breadcrumb” feature just below the tab names along the top of the window. It’s called a “breadcrumb” because it shows the trail you’ve taken to get to your current location. A lot like the breadcrumb trail you might leave for yourself when walking through a forest! All elements of the breadcrumb are clickable, so you can easily retrace your steps. Keep an eye on it if your focus wanders and it will help reorientate you.
The website provides information about conventional treatments for cancer.
It mentions how incorporating complementary approaches such as acupuncture, yoga, music therapy may help to improve quality of life and/or relieve symptoms of treatments. However, under “treatment and side effects” there is no mention of the effectiveness of nutrition and lifestyle medicine also to improve quality of life and address side effects of conventional treatments, despite there being good research in this area. Other well-researched approaches for side effect management also seem to be neglected in this section.
In “day to day matters,” nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle medicine are covered, but from the angle of staying healthy, not symptom management and quality of life.
There also do not appear to be specific sections on spirituality, psycho-oncology and psychosocial issues relating to breast cancer. While you can search specifically for these topics and find research papers, there are no general sections covering these important aspects of breast cancer.
Information on “paying for your care” and “managing your medical records” are included, along with other less obvious topics such as “summertime tips” and “preparing for a natural disaster.”
Conclusion and Recommendations
The scope of articles on this website is impressive. In most sections, the authors have tried to figure out every single thing that someone facing a breast cancer diagnosis might want to know. But there are some sections that could be expanded to include more than just the physical side of breast cancer, incorporating the psychosocial aspects too. Maybe the community section is where these topics are addressed, but having information on this in the body of the site would mean people could read evidenced based information, not just anecdotal.
The organization of the site is excellent, and throughout, the authors use plain language so that if you aren’t familiar with the cancer-specific terminology, you can still find your way around easily enough.
Overall, this site is well worth taking some time to explore, whether for your own sake or in support of a friend or loved one.
To visit breastcancer.org click here!
This review was written by Kathie Farrell from CALMERme.com.