Breast Cancer Wars: Hope, Fear, and the Pursuit of a Cure in Twentieth-Century America / Edition 1

Breast Cancer Wars: Hope, Fear, and the Pursuit of a Cure in Twentieth-Century America / Edition 1

by Barron H. Lerner
Pub. Date:
Oxford University Press


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Breast Cancer Wars: Hope, Fear, and the Pursuit of a Cure in Twentieth-Century America / Edition 1

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 colorful 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 demonize 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 2900195161068
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 04/28/2003
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 8.00(w) x 5.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

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 York.

Table of Contents

2Establishing a Tradition: William Halsted and the Radical Mastectomy15
3Inventing a Curable Disease: Breast Cancer Control after WorldWar II41
4The Scalpel Triumphant: Radical Surgery in the 1950s69
5A Heretical Interlude: Biology as Fate92
6Reality Check: Breast Cancer Treatment and Randomized Controlled Trials115
7"I Alone Am in Charge of My Body": Breast Cancer Patients in Revolt141
8No Shrinking Violet: Rose Kushner and the Maturation of Breast Cancer Activism170
9Seek and Ye Shall Find: Mammography Praised and Scorned196
10"The World Has Passed Us By": Science, Activism, and the Fall of the Radical Mastectomy223
11The Past as Prologue: What Can the History of Breast Cancer Teach Us?241
12Risky Business: Breast Cancer and Genetics276
Glossary of Breast Cancer Operations303

What People are Saying About This

Regina Morantz-Sanchez

Lively and readable, The Breast Cancer Wars combines the informed analytical perspective of a trained historian with the expertise of a scientist and the compassion of a good clinician. The result is a book sensitive to the perspective of both patient and practitioner.
—(Regina Morantz-Sanchez, Ph.D. Author of Conduct Unbecoming a Woman: Medicine on Trial in Turn-of-the-Century Brooklyn)

James T. Patterson

Barron Lerner has explored with brilliant even-handedness the century-long debates over the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Authoritative and clear concerning scientific matters, The Breast Cancer Wars is also first-class social and cultural history.
—(James T. Patterson, Ph.D.,Bancroft Prize-winning author of Brown vs. Board of Education and The Dread Disease: Cancer in Modern American Culture)

Susan Love

This wonderful book illustrates beautifully the evolution of breast cancer treatment, demonstrating how science is far from the only driver of medical change. Barron Lerner tells a riveting story full of politics, personalities and patients, making this one of the best books I have read in a long time.
—(Susan Love, M.D., author of Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book)

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