- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press (October 15, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520276574
- ISBN-13: 978-0520276574
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #573,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us
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From the Inside Flap
Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of Emperor of All Maladies, Pulitzer Prize Winner
"Malignant is a beneficent book, a tough gift for all of us. Iweneed this scholarly, angry, intimate, objective, smart, moving book that teaches us how to endure and even maybe thrive in the rubble.’"
-- Donna Haraway, author of Simians, Cyborgs, and Women
"Malignant is the most important book about cancer in decades. Lochlann Jain brilliantly compels us to look straight into its metastases and cultural malignancies. In cancer's claws we find, not just the limits of existence, but also a poetics of resistance."
-- Jonathan Metzl MD, PhD, author of The Protest Psychosis
I found myself entertained, informed, surprised and ultimately transformed by this wonderful narrative.”
-- Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone
Top customer reviews
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The author explains her experiences with doctors who downplay her concerns, and seem interested in treating her only when her cancer is deadly.
The medical treatments offer 2% improvement in survival.
Suggestions to recover from cancer.
Her experiences recovering from cancer.
This is a must-read for anyone diagnosed with breast cancer. Although, I can't decide if I would recommend it before you go through the whole treatment-decision making process or after. After reading it, I felt empowered, angry, sad, betrayed, and scared that this is only one of two books that I've come across so far (the other one being The Truth in Small Doses) that calls out on the carpet the way cancer research, pink fund-raising, and the "brave survivor" box breast-cancer patients are forced into are complicated, messy, frustrating things.
So yeah, reading it beforehand might give you the gumption to call into question doctor's opinions on chemotherapy or a too-short breast exam, or feel unwilling to demand test results right away because you're a "good" patient, but it also might leave you feeling depressingly frustrated with the complicated truth behind diagnosis, questions of prognosis and life expectancy, and options for treatment.
But this book is also a must-read because Jain is an anthropologist, and her perspective on the cancer industry in this book comes from some unexpected directions-- stances I had never considered or come across in other books: that of a misdiagnosed, potential malpractice suit plaintiff, queer, and politics of fertility (In Vitro) etc. And the prose is eloquent and dense.
Jain starts by acknowledging the shifting, complicated meanings inherent in the word "cancer" itself. Something I began to realize half-way through my own process. "Cancer" can be a death sentence when you first hear it from the nervous physician telling you the biopsy results, then it becomes a specific-sized tumor after surgery, and then something to be eradicated by various treatments, during treatment an identity you either show the world or try to hide, and then finally post-treatment, a constantly hovering presence. Jain writes of her doctor's office
"Cancer in all its nounishness, refers to everything...and nothing. Cancer pervaded the office, residing in each of these objects and people and the relations among them, but nowhere could it be specified as a thing. The main tumors were gone: cancer had only just begun."
Jain's identity leads her to delve into various and often-overlooked or over-simplified aspects of the cancer beast. Having undergone fertility treatments in order to be an egg donor, being misdiagnosed with breast cancer, and then undergoing treatment as a self-identified butch queer in a cancer culture that emphasizes makeup, wigs, and protheses, Jain calls into question the medical industry's screening practices, failure to divulge or acknowledge links between fertility treatments and environmental toxins to cancer, the "brave face" breast cancer patients are expected to put on, as well as the way tort law and malpractice law interacts with diagnoses of cancer.
Political? Yes. Well-written social science? Yes. Challenging and emotionally draining to read? Very much yes. Because after this, you can't keep the illusion of the "doctor mommy" who knows best. You will have to educate yourself and be your own advocate both as a patient and as someone living in the wider world with friends and family who are exposed to carcinogens.
We don't know why some cancer spreads. We don't know why some cancer is indolent for years and then becomes aggressive, nor do we know how much radiation exposure or environmental toxin or genetic susceptibility tips one over the edge into cancer-world.
And that makes me frustrated after all the fund-raising and "buying" pink that we as Americans do. Books like this help us focus on the real areas: improving doctor-patient relationships, insurance, screening practices, and research into causation.
The primary reason for only three stars is the gratuitous and distracting constant conversation of the author's sexual identity. She is gay but this has nothing to do with her having developed breast cancer. Women, straight, bi sexual or gay, can get breast cancer. Men, gay, bi, or straight can get breast cancer. Ms. Jain's sexual preference was in every chapter and mentioned constantly. I found it to be not relevant to the otherwise well written study and detracting from the general theme of the book.