- File Size: 10200 KB
- Print Length: 597 pages
- Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (November 16, 2010)
- Publication Date: November 16, 2010
- Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1439181713
- ISBN-13: 978-1439181713
- ASIN: B003UYUP58
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,918 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer Kindle Edition
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“Magisterial… A small miracle of insight, scope, pace, structure and lucidity.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“This volume should earn Mukherjee a rightful place alongside Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, and Stephen Hawking in the pantheon of our epoch's great explicators.”—Boston Globe
About the Author
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When you are told you have cancer you are bewildered. You are also very angry. I asked myself was there something I had done in my past that was going to deprive me seeing my two sons grow up into happy young men and dads. The first two weeks go by in a weird nightmare. Day 17 your hair falls out. Your peeing orange from the chemo drugs, which have put me off lucozade for life. You double check all your insurances are up to date and update a well to make sure my wife does not have any hassles with the tax authorities. At the age of 44 you are very angry. You realise you are likely going to die. You are angry because you have no idea what is doing it. What you planned for when you were older is all meaningless. But, thanks to certain stubbornness and amazing treatment and care, and a generous sift of life from a German donor of life giving stem cells, I am alive.
This book helps explain many of the questions I had. It does it in a way that makes sense if you don't have a degree in science. What was until recently a death sentence is no longer the case. The battle against cancer was waged by intrepid individuals, and this book explains the war so far. It outlines the causes of cancer, whether it is a virus, bacteria, induced by smoking or chemicals, or just our own body playing up and turning on itself. It explains how our own understanding is still basic but advancing year by year, and treatments, if not cures, are being found for many, although not all cancers.
I learned that was once a death sentence is not the case today. I am looking forward to see my sons become men. This book gave me clarity, it gave me hope.
Across the book, we are also introduced to ways of fighting or stalling the advance of cancer: radical surgery and radical mastectomy, X-rays, cytotoxics, monoclonal antibodies, tyrosine kinase inhibitors and S. Mukherjee explains really well how all of the above function (or don't function in some cases). One of the strengths of the book is that it gives a behind the scenes look at how certain drugs or procedures came to be (Druker's struggles with developing imatinib) or how other procedures were proven to be too radical and changed such as Halsted's radical mastectomy.
The fight to find a cure for cancer has triggered enormous social forces in the 20th century and in the book we are introduced to some of the main characters: Sidney Farber and the Jimmy Fund, Mary Lasker and the American Cancer Society both determined to enact policy changes that will get more resources allocated to the war against cancer. These are just a few figures in this war, but there were other forces as well that fought for cigarette labeling for example, or more personal struggles related to compassionate drug use.
S. Mukherjee ends the book on a more positive note. All throughout the book we get the impression that primitive forces are battling a very complex disease, using disfiguring surgery or drugs that oftentimes end up causing cancer themselves. The final few chapters are not so gloomy, he takes a molecular biologist's view of the disease and explains our current understanding of the processes and pathways involved and you do get the impression that by 2050 we will be able to target the specific pathways and mutations that make up a particular form of cancer.
Top international reviews
This book does an excellent job, as far as my knowledge extends, in providing a historical guide to the ways in which cancer has been treated and the growing understanding of what cancer actually is. The two have not necessarily gone hand in hand, and it is comparatively recently that the understanding of the biology of cancer has produced targeted treatments.
The flip side of that understanding, though, is that it is quite likely there will never be a magic 'cure' for cancer. In some ways, as the book explains, everyone's cancer at the genetic level is unique, though it appears there are certain genes which are likely to be drivers of cancer. But with an aging population, cancer may be, like wrinkles, a feature of old age. The good news is that cancers that affect the young have been the ones where the treatment has been most effective.
Some of the chapters in the book that deal with the biology of cancer at the chromosome level are a little hard going for a non-biologist. A diagram may have been useful in places. But, ultimately, the book is worth the effort and the information within it should help dispel some of the fear and dread that surrounds mention of the disease.
Tracing the business of cancer - a catch-all noun for a multiple disease of infinite variety but with a common origin - the progress of the malady is meticulously dissected out through anecdote, fact, history,science, quackery, coincidence, serendipity, elation, catastrophe, failure, humanity, hubris and a thousand other perspectives. Heart-wrenching tales of suffering, false trails, missed opportunities, stupidity and greed are juxtaposed with brilliant insights, fastidious labour, lucky breaks, dedication, applied logic, professional ostracization, and tenacity in the face of ruin.
The mundane reality of the horrors of early treatments and the humanity it can elicit make for astonishing reading. The excitement of giant leaps in treatment progress - Morton with aneasthesia and Lister with antisepsis, for example - are juxtaposed with reflections on the lady who having endured a mastectomy without anaesthetic rises from the table and, curtsies to the surgeons apologizing should she have disturbed their progress with any inadvertent cries during the procedure and so induces tears in the eyes of those who operated on her.
Cancer, it turns out may well be the primary disease of diseases with its basis in genetic malfunction it has been demonstrated in two million year old bones, in Egyptian mummies and ancient Peruvian graves. It is universal and its supremacy has been camouflaged by parallel diseases such as plague, tuberculosis, heart disease etc depressing longevity, for cancer is a disease that is predominantly occasioned by living to a ripe old age. The modern shift appears to be immunological challenges that disturb the equanimity of genetic replication procedures leading to malfunctions of cell reproduction cycles.
Cancer,it seems from reading Mukherjee's tale, is the ultimate survival machine. Beautiful in its mechanisms and its association with the fundamental processes of life.
Perhaps he might be persuaded to pen another volume containing what he had to leave out previously. One can only hope. There are several internet lectures/discussions in which he features if you wish to sample an appetizer for this book
The author, Siddhartha Mukherjee, lightens the load by giving us heartening case studies. Many more children with leukemia are now cured, as are those with scrotum cancer and breast cancer, although the 'war on cancer' as Mukherjee calls it, is far from over.
In the end, we learned that we all carry cancer genes in our cells and if we don't die because of cancer but because of some other illness, we will nevertheless die with cancer in our bodies. Something triggers it off and we can help ourselves by not smoking and triggering lung cancer; not climbing up chimneys and triggering scrotum cancer, perhaps not eating too much red meat which might trigger colon cancer (although this is still in investigation stage) and so on.
For me, the book is a wonderful story of unsung heroes, those scientists working tirelessly in lonely, windowless basements trying to find the next piece of the puzzle. It reads like a detective novel as the evidence from research is sifted through for clues. Indeed it was so graphic at times, I worried that I might trigger cancer in my own body just by thinking so hard about it!
The author's historical approach works wonderfully well, chronicling the development of both understanding of cancer (mostly the realm of scientists) and treatment of cancer (largely the realm of doctors). The book is long, as it had to be given the complexity of the tale, but I found it almost compulsive reading and difficult to put down. The author is clear-sighted and objective in his treatment of the people who played key medical, scientific, political, and advocacy roles in the past 60 years, considering them and their activities - and their successes and failures - objectively and with a fine sense of how they struggled to deal with this brutal, often mysterious, and always frustrating disease. This telling of the human story is strengthened further by his inclusion of cancer sufferers and their experiences, not for pathos or shock effect but to provide an essential additional dimension.
This is a book from which I have learned a great deal, not only about cancer and how we have come to better understand it and deal with it, but also about how science and medicine function in the real world. I recommend this book whole-heartedly.
This is a truly admirable book which helps the public to understand a topic that normally would be revealed only to doctors and researchers. Perhaps there will be some readers whose fear of cancer will make it difficult for them to appreciate this book. But knowledge is power, and peace of mind may come from understanding how this most feared of diseases can be fought, sometimes successfully.
I will certainly look out for any future books by Siddhartha Mukherjee , I hope he decides to write more on the subject. This book is a gem and I truly recommend it.
The package was dry outside. But inside the package the two books were socked in dirty water and bruised and fungated also. Many pages are sticked together. The books cannot be used or even kept in a book shelf. Unfortunately when I tried to return, the system says... " Return window close on 27 August 2018.