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Educational materials for patients and families

Woman using computer

There is a wealth of good information and reading material about breast cancer on the web; it can also be overwhelming.

Here are some articles and resources that have been created or adapted by the PYNK team, including medical oncologist Dr. Ellen Warner and clinical psychologist Dr. Karen Fergus. A curated selection of articles from Sunnybrook’s Your Health Matters site and other trusted websites are also included.

» Fertility and pregnancy

Breast cancer and fertility - A short article by Dr. Ellen Warner about how breast cancer treatments can affect fertility, and what can be done about it.

» Fertility and cancer treatment - This video about fertility and cancer treatment was produced in collaboration by University Health Network’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Sick Kids hospital.

Breast cancer and breastfeeding - This article from the Breastfeeding Medicine journal discusses the effects of breast cancer and its treatments on breastfeeding. It provides protocols for care of breastfeeding women who have been, or are currently being treated for, breast cancer.

Freezing your eggs at age 24 - A former PYNK patient describes her experience with fertility preservation due to breast cancer.

» Genetics

This video, created by Sunnybrook’s Cancer Genetics & High-Risk Program, provides some background information on cancer and genes. It reviews how hereditary cancer risk assessments are done based on personal and/or family history of cancer, who is eligible for genetic testing and what those results can be for a person and/or their family members.

» Genetics Update (video) - In this talk, presented at PYNK’s 2022 Spring Patient Education event, Dr. Andrea Eisen, the head of Sunnybrook’s Familial Cancer and High Risk Program gives an update on the genetics of breast cancer. She touches on the topics of improving access to genetic testing, testing other genes beyond BRCA1/2, and treatment of early stage BRCA1/2 associated breast cancer.

» Lifestyle

» Effects of Lifestyle on Breast Cancer Recurrence (video) - In this talk, presented at PYNK’s 2022 Spring Patient Education event, Dr. Ellen Warner, PYNK’s founder and director discusses evidence showing that certain lifestyle changes can affect breast cancer recurrence.

Which lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of breast cancer recurring? - Dr. Ellen Warner explores which lifestyle changes breast cancer patients can make to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Audio: Busting myths about breast cancer and lifestyle changes - Interview with Dr. Ellen Warner on Calgary Today to set the record straight on which lifestyle changes really may reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Tips for reducing chemotherapy weight gain during breast cancer treatment - Weight gain during chemotherapy is very common for women with breast cancer, and avoiding it is arguably one of the most important lifestyle changes they can make to improve their outcomes. In this article, Dr. Ellen Warner suggests ten ways to maintain a healthy weight.

Does sugar feed cancer? - This article examines the relationships between sugar, diet and cancer.

Should I get the flu shot if have cancer? - This article briefly discusses some facts about the flu vaccine.

» Treatment

» New Breast Cancer Therapies (video)
In this talk, presented at PYNK’s 2022 Spring Patient Education event, Dr. Kasia Jerzak, a medical oncologist and researcher at Sunnybrook takes an in-depth look at the mechanisms and benefits of some recently developed breast cancer therapies.

Hormonal therapy

These printable pamphlets explain how various hormonal therapies work and the most common side effects.

» Treatment side effects

Menopause

Breast cancer and early menopause – a guide for younger women - This article was adapted by the PYNK team from a pamphlet of the same name published by Cancer Australia. The resource explains menopause and its relationship with breast cancer treatments, explores common symptoms and suggests coping techniques.

Vaginal dryness

Premature Menopause (video) »
This talk, presented at PYNK’s 2022 Spring Patient Education Event, includes the same content as the Too Young for Menopause video above. However it also includes live footage of Christel Helwig, PYNK Nurse Navigator 2010-2022, presenting, as well as a live Q&A at the end of the presentation. Note: This presentation unfortunately was subject to significant audio interference.

Vaginal dryness as a result of menopause can significantly alter a young woman’s quality of life. This article explains the causes and symptoms of vaginal dryness, and suggest techniques to manage it and counteract its ill effects.

Too Young for Menopause (video) »

In this PowerPoint presentation, Christel Helwig, PYNK Nurse Navigator 2010-2022, describes the symptoms of premature menopause precipitated by many breast cancer treatments. She provides a “toolbox” of strategies for dealing with these symptoms.

Click here to download the slides from the presentation (no audio) »

Fatigue

Video and resources: How to manage cancer-related fatigue - Fatigue is the most common symptom experienced by people with cancer. This whiteboard explainer video was produced by Dr. Mike Evans with support from the Odette Cancer Centre and the Canadian Cancer Society. It provides information about fatigue, and simple techniques to combat it. There are also links on the page to written information and resources on the subject.

» Body image

Body image after breast cancer – video and resources - Created by the PYNK team in collaboration with psychiatrist Dr. Mary Jane Esplen and her team, this resource and video thoroughly explore how body image is developed, changes during breast cancer, and can be managed.

» Sexuality and intimacy

Sexual changes associated with breast cancer - Both the physical and emotional impacts of breast cancer can affect a couple’s intimate relationship, as this article by Dr. Deborah McLeod explains.

Let’s talk about sex – a cancer patient’s perspective - This frank piece by a cancer survivor talks about the impact cancer has on patients’ and survivors’ sexual experience, and the often inadequate treatment of this topic by healthcare providers.

» Psychosocial effects of cancer

Living with loss and uncertainty after diagnosis and treatment: Dr. Karen Fergus writes about the uniquely personal feelings and reactions to the changes associated with the diagnosis of breast cancer.

Anxiety and cancer: People with cancer often experience anxiety. This article provides a brief synopsis of anxiety symptoms and ways to deal with them.

Letting go of control and finding purpose in the randomness of cancer: Psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Lewis discusses letting go of control and focussing on the meaningful parts of life during his wife’s experience with breast cancer.

Cancer and the not-so-positive power of positive thinking: There’s lots of talk about 'staying positive' when it comes to cancer diagnosis and treatment. Here, Dr. Elie Isenberg-Grzeda, a psycho-oncologist at the Odette Cancer Centre, tackles a few of the common questions he receives about positive thinking and cancer.

NEVER TOO YOUNG – Psychosocial information and support for young women with breast cancer: This in-depth pamphlet, produced by the Canadian Breast Cancer Network, thoroughly discusses psychosocial issues that affect young women with breast cancer.

Facing cancer as a younger adult: This article discusses particular challenges for younger people with cancer.

» Breast cancer and relationships

With partner

I wish I could fix it: Information for partners of people with breast cancer: Adapted from the pamphlet by Breast Cancer Network Australia, this work discusses challenges faced by partners as they adapt to new roles and challenges in their lives and relationships while trying to support a spouse through the breast cancer journey.

Breast cancer and the couple relationship: Dr. Karen Fergus, on how couples can weather the storms of breast cancer together rather than having these stressors tear them apart. 

With children

Communicating with children about illness - In this article, child-life specialist Morgan Livingstone steps through childhood from infancy through the end of the teenage years, with age-appropriate suggestions about how to talk to children about illness, and how to interpret their cues and responses.

Supporting Your children through your diagnosis and treatment - Here Dr. Karen Fergus discusses a number of ways to help kids deal with questions, experiences and behaviours (by children and their parents) that they are encountering as a result of their parent’s breast cancer.

How to talk to your children about your cancer by Laura Pasqualino, social worker. This short article gives some great tips and basic ideas in point form.

Talking to your children about cancer - Elaine Rapp, a social worker in the Odette Cancer Program, provides a brief guide to the basics of how to tell your child about your cancer and its implications for your family.​

Talking to your kids about breast cancer: A guide for parents - This attractive booklet guides parents through talking to their children and helping them cope with Mom’s breast cancer. It is published by Rethink Breast Cancer and available in print as well as online. Rethink generously provides us with complimentary print copies. They are available through the PYNK Physician Assistant.

The kids’ guide to mommy's breast cancer - Published by RETHINK breast cancer, and available in print as well as online, this booklet uses engaging illustrations and clear simple language to introduce kids to the basics of breast cancer in a factual and non-scary way.

Facing a diagnosis of breast cancer, parents often grapple with how to broach the topic with their children. It's a challenging conversation, but one that can profoundly impact their understanding and coping mechanisms. Just like adults, children cope better when given honest information and support. These webinars were presented live by PYNK in 2024. In them, Morgan provides guidance on talking about your diagnosis and using honest communication to best support your children. She addresses common reactions you may encounter and recommends helpful resources to support you and your family through this journey.

MISSION: RecoveryCreated by Rethink Breast Cancer, this unique animated video series uses an imaginary world combined with the thoughts and voices of real kids who have had a parent with breast cancer. The short episodes offer child appropriate information, as well as helpful strategies and tips to help children understand what their parent is going through, the feelings they may be experiencing themselves, and the importance of asking for help when they need it. Parents can watch the series with their children to stimulate conversation and communication.

The series includes the following episodes:

    With others

    Relating to family and friends when you have breast cancer - In this article Dr. Karen Fergus addresses some of the many issues that come up between women with breast cancer, their family and friends. From asking for emotional and practical support, to dealing with insensitive remarks and other people’s feelings, cancer can complicate relationships.

    Triggers that remind me of my daughter's cancer are everywhere - This highly relatable article in Cure magazine is written from the perspective of a mother who functioned as a caregiver for her daughter through her cancer treatment journey.

    » Metastatic breast cancer

    MBC TIME - A collaboration between the Canadian Breast Cancer Network (CBCN), Rethink Breast Cancer (Rethink), the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation, and Pfizer Canada, this comprehensive site about Metastatic Breast Cancer provides information, resources and stories of individuals living with mBC.

    What Women With Metastatic Breast Cancer Want You to Know - This Chatelaine article promoting the MBCtime organization, gives an engaging lay-person’s exploration of metastatic breast cancer.

    Newly diagnosed - A brief introduction for those newly diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer

    Remembering the 'forgotten stage' of breast cancer - This article describes the experiences of a woman with stage 4 breast cancer.

    'I don't have time for this: Diagnosed with breast cancer when you least expect it' (video) - A 45 minute documentary about five courageous and tenacious young women who will not let breast cancer get in the way of their lives – they simply don't have time for it. They've got too much to live for. Lumpectomies, mastectomies, chemotherapy, radiation, egg extraction, treatment schedules, menopause – who's got the time? This documentary was produced by Big Coat Productions, originally premiering on W Network on October 23, 2010

    Rethinking Palliative Care (video) - This short video created by Rethink Breast Cancer dispels myths about palliative care and introduces its benefits