DES: The Complete Story by Cynthia Orenberg

DES: The Complete Story

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An important sourcebook for all those affected by one of our big medical mistakes. In 1971, the first connection was made between the use (on an ""unproven theory"") of the artificial hormone diethylstilbestrol to prevent miscarriage, and the occurrence of a rare vaginal cancer in female offspring. Orenberg, a medical writer for the University of Wisconsin, has had an unfortunate close view of the ""side"" effects of DES: after taking the drug during a 1968 pregnancy, she has to cope not only with knowledge of what may happen to her daughter, but also with her own probably-related health problem. Here, she combines her professional and personal outlook to present the information she has since collected on DES; and much of it is brand new. The ""DES daughters"" story is fairly well-known: as the first DES-exposed babies approach their forties, they experience a high incidence of benign (but symptom-producing) changes in their reproductive tracts, anatomical abnormalities, reproductive problems, menstrual irregularities, and, of course, the much-publicized vaginal cancers. But what is more slowly becoming apparent is that DES sons have also been affected: while they don't seem to get cancer as a result of their in utero exposure to the drug, they frequently do have problems in the urogenital tract--ranging from cysts and malformation of the penis, to sterility. And, finally, evidence is accumulating that mothers who took DES have--in addition to their crushing guilt at having harmed their children--a higher risk of developing cancer, especially of the breast. Orenberg combines all this with the unsettling tale of how the drug was approved, and who was pushing it. But she also relates how she and her family have handled the burden (husbands are for once included in the discussion); and she sets out for each what mother, daughter, and son should do to protect her/himself medically (weighty advice, since many doctors aren't up to date on this). The very best kind of self-help: solid information, a concrete plan for action, and sympathetic support from one who's been there.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 1981
Publisher: St. Martin's