The Breast Cancer Wars: Hope, Fear, and the Pursuit of a Cure in Twentieth-Century America
Writing with insight and compassion, Lerner tells a compelling story of influential surgeons, anxious patients and committed activists. There are colourful portraits of the leading figures, ranging from the acerbic Dr. William Halsted, who pioneered the disfiguring radical mastectomy at the turn of the century to George Crile, Jr., the Cleveland surgeon who shocked the medical establishment by "going public" with his doubts about mastectomy, to Rose Kushner, a brash journalist who relentlessly educated American women about breast cancer. Lerner offers a fascinating account of the breast cancer wars: the insistent efforts of physicians to vanquish the "enemy"; the fights waged by feminists and maverick doctors to combat a paternalistic legacy that discouraged decision-making by patients; and the struggles of statisticians and researchers to generate definitive data in the face of the great risks and uncertainties raised by the disease. As easy as it is to demonise male physicians, the persistence of the radical mastectomy and other invasive treatments has had as much to do with the complicated scientific understandings of breast cancer as with sexism.
In Lerner's hands, the fight against breast cancer opens a window on American medical practice over the last century: the pursuit of dramatic cures with sophisticated technologies, the emergence of patients' rights, the ethical and legal challenges raised by informed consent, and the limited ability of scientific knowledge to provide quick solutions for serious illnesses. A searching and profound work on an emotionally charged issue, The Breast Cancer Wars tells a story that remains of vital importance to modern breast cancer patients, their families and the clinicians who strive to treat and prevent this dreaded disease.
Lerner presents a thoroughly researched and deeply reflective history of breast cancer and the methods that have been employed to treat it. (Scientific American)A detailed, colorful account of the people and events that shaped breast cancer treatment, mostly in the last half of the century. (Los Angeles Times)A fascinating, well-told tale with important lessons for scientists, clinicians, politicians, and patients. (The Lancet)Will be of great interest to medical professionals, advocates of breast-cancer research and awareness, and lay readers. Lerner has written an engaging narrative that is meticulously researched, well organized in its presentation, and immensely readable. (The New England Journal of Medicine)Sure to be controversial, this prodigiously researched medical and cultural history examines deeply held views on the treatment of breast cancer... Provocative and highly engaging, Lerner's book presents an important contribution to medical history. (Publishers Weekly)The sort of book that every woman diagnosed with breast cancer should read before she seeks treatment. (The Women's Review of Books)
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