- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (July 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199560234
- ISBN-13: 978-0199560233
- Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.5 x 4.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,206,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cancer: A Very Short Introduction 1st Edition
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About the Author
Nick James is Professor of Clinical Oncology at the University of Birmingham.
Top customer reviews
Slight criticisms of this format would include the illegibility of some early tables which have been reduced in size and are now black and white. One can piece together some of what the tables are saying by crossing back to the supporting text a few times but, alas, that is not how supporting tables are meant to work.
I was expecting James, a representative of the medical establishment, to pay short shrift to alternative and complementary medicines. He devotes a chapter to these approaches which, given the other areas he had to cover, is generous but nevertheless will make him a target for those who would have the balance the other way. Fortunately, there are many resources on non-medical treatments available. While dismissing some quackery, James is generally fair and evidence-based, importantly highlighting the high risk that can exist if a complementary medicine confounds other treatments. This approach seems reasonable and the reader may consider his points in the context of the disparities, contradictions and trans-border inequities that James identifies in national treatment and pharmaceutical support regimes, and in the context of the commercial priorities of pharmaceutical companies when they try to dovetail with these regimes and appease investors and shareholders. While alternative and complementary approaches have potential risks and drawbacks, the reader is left thinking that it may be preferable to assess them more broadly against the scientific method than against expensive, complex and bureaucratic systems tailored for drug companies and their products. James may not share this view, but the strength of his book is that it provides a sound introduction so that readers may think around the topic as I have.
James has made very good use of the Very Short Introduction format. There are many topics that he has not touched upon but the reader will be better prepared to undertake further reading, to make sense of media, commercial, bureaucratic, even political, statements about cancer treatment. Most importantly, there is information to help manage personal risk and to talk to experts if necessary.
Once the book was finally picked up, I found that I could not put it down. Yes, cancer is a scary and macabre subject, but this book removes some of the horrific feelings that such a word conjures up. Dr. James somehow manages to weave his way through the seriousness of the subject by showing his reader just how much is known about the disease today when compared to earlier times. He explains how it (cancer) comes into being and ways that it is treated today, was treated in the past and will most likely be treated in the future. His writing style and understanding of the subject turned a dreaded and scary read nearly into a page turner.
One of the interesting things about the book is that on the back flap it talks about the kind of cancers that Dr. James treats and that he also works to inform people about cancer. This is exactly what he has done with this informative and even engaging book.
This is a terrible subject that many people do not want to think about let alone read about. And this is where the beauty of the book truly lives. It helps to demystify this dreaded word and diagnosis. Everyone brave enough to pick it up will come away knowing more about this disease than they may have thought possible and may even have a better sense of hope knowing what was and where understanding and treatment is headed.
Overall, highly recommended for its clarity and ability to inform the reader about such an ugly subject.
CITATION: James, N. (2011). Cancer: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Reviewer: Dr W. P. Palmer.
The series of books published by Oxford University Press are short, well written, up-to-date books giving the latest information about more than 250 different topics. With scientific topics, the rate at which knowledge of an area changes can be very fast. In the case of this particular book on the cancer, this is very much the case, with a large amount of information only being discovered in the past ten years. As this book was written in 2011, much new information will have been discovered by now (2014) so that the book may already be in need of revision. The main chapters in this 135 page book are:
List of illustrations xiii
Chapter 1 The size of the cancer problem 1
Chapter 2 How does cancer develop? 24
Chapter 3 How is cancer treated? 45
Chapter 4 Cancer research. 73
Chapter 5 The economics of cancer care. 93
Chapter 6 Alternative and complementary approaches to cancer care. 109
There are 25 black and white illustrations and 8 tables. These illustrations are helpful, but the size of the print on some of them is so small, for example Table 1, page 6, that it is difficult to make sense of them. The book provides a large amount of information in a small space, but the consequence is that sometimes the most important issues are not clearly spelled out.
The final chapter on ‘Alternative and complementary approaches to cancer care’ is actually more general than just considering the approaches to cancer care as the author directs our attention to the lack of logic in paying large amounts of money for unproven alternative treatments. Some readers may take offense if their favourite treatment appears to be targeted, but it is always good to see what approaches the logical and informed mind would reject.
The book is well worth reading.
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