This critical analysis of how breast cancer is perceived, researched, and treated calls urgently for fundamental changes.
Kasper, a senior research scientist at the University of Illinois Center for Research on Women and Gender, and Ferguson (Sociology/Grinnell Coll.) contend that the best interests of women with breast cancer have frequently been overlooked or undermined. Their collection of essays supporting this thesis begins with a history of breast cancer that uses the debate over radical mastectomy to demonstrate how social forces, such as feminism and patients’-rights movements, affect diagnosis and treatment. Next, an essay by Ferguson charges that plastic and reconstructive surgeons, the FDA, the AMA, and implant manufacturers have medicalized breasts by defining women with small breasts as deformed and diseased. Part two looks at the economics and politics of breast cancer. Individual contributors claim that the financing and fragmented organization of the health-care system obstruct women’s access to high-quality care, that social inequality shapes that access, and that corporate interests have much to gain from the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer, little to gain from its prevention, and much to lose from the regulation of toxic products. The editors also look at the roles and motives of various government agencies, cancer societies, industry, and women’s-health advocates in breast cancer policymaking and at controversies in breast cancer research. In Part Three, the focus shifts to social change, with an examination of how breast cancer has been presented in popular women’s magazines since 1913 and of how the breast cancer movement, with its diverse components, has evolved. In a concluding essay, Kasper and Ferguson present their own recommendations, calling for research and clinical practices concentrating on prevention, for the elimination of corporate profit-making interests, for reformation of the health-care industry, and for attention to the needs of underserved women.
An angry book delivering well-deserved hard knocks to male members of the biomedical, government, and corporate establishments.