In-depth coverage of breast cancer from a health care journalist and survivor.
“In addition to being the most public of all the cancers,” writes Pickert (Journalism/Loyola Marymount Univ.), “carcinoma of the breast may be the most thoroughly studied malignancy in human history.” In her first book, the author explores the history of the disease and its many variations, the progression of treatment regimes, and the cultural awareness that has developed thanks to individuals and big corporations participating in pink-ribbon campaigns. As a health care journalist, Pickert was interested in the subject, but it became even more important when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of the cancer at the relatively young age of 35. She interweaves the story of her own treatment schedule with the historical, cultural, and scientific data she collected on this well-documented carcinoma. The narrative is informative and personable and thankfully never maudlin or melodramatic. One of the more controversial topics Pickert explores is mammograms: how early women should begin having them, how often, and whether there is a better way to identify cancer cells at an early stage so women can get the best treatment possible. Readers learn about the extremely radical surgeries performed in the late 1880s, which often left women deformed, as well as the latest studies, which provide treatment based on an individual’s genetic and family history. Pickert addresses the development of effective drugs, including both synthetics and those derived from plant and tree bark. “As I type this sentence,” she writes, “1,823 federally registered breast cancer clinical trials are actively recruiting patients.” She also includes information on men with breast cancer, an underdiscussed topic. Though not comprehensive, the book provides readers with a wide range of information to help those with breast cancer and their support groups make the most effective decisions for their own treatment.
A useful text on a well-known cancer bolstered by the author’s personal perspective as a survivor.