The Breast Cancer Wars

The Breast Cancer Wars : Hope, Fear, and the Pursuit of a Cure in Twentieth-Century America

3.92 (41 ratings by Goodreads)
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In this riveting narrative, Barron H. Lerner offers a superb medical and cultural history of our century-long battle with breast cancer. Revisiting the past, Lerner argues, can illuminate and clarify the dilemmas confronted by women with, and at risk for, the disease. 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 more

Product details

  • Paperback | 408 pages
  • 134.62 x 198.12 x 20.32mm | 294.83g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 15 half tones and 6 line drawings
  • 0195161068
  • 9780195161069
  • 1,369,854

Review quote

The sort of book that every woman diagnosed with breast cancer should read before she seeks treatment. * The Women's Review of Books * 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 * 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 * A fascinating, well-told tale with important lessons for scientists, clinicians, politicians, and patients. * The Lancet * 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 * Lerner presents a thoroughly researched and deeply reflective history of breast cancer and the methods that have been employed to treat it. * Scientific American *show more

About Barron H. Lerner

Barron H. Lerner, M.D. is Angelica Berrie Gold Foundation Associate Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, where he teaches internal medicine, medical history, and bioethics. He is the author of Contagion and Confinement: Controlling Tuberculosis Along the Skid Road as well as articles in professional journals and publications such as The Washington Post. He lives with his wife and two children in Westchester County, New more

Table of contents

1. Introduction ; 2. Establishing a Tradition ; 3. Inventing a Curable Disease ; 4. The Scalpel Triumphant ; 5. A Heretical Interlude ; 6. Reality Check ; 7. "I Alone Am in Charge of My Body" ; 8. No Shrinking Violet ; 9. Seek and Ye Shall Find ; 10. "The World Has Passed Us By" ; 11. The Past as Prologue ; 12. Risky Business ; 13. Epilogue ; 14. Postscriptshow more

Rating details

41 ratings
3.92 out of 5 stars
5 34% (14)
4 32% (13)
3 27% (11)
2 7% (3)
1 0% (0)
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