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Showing 1-10 of 1,339 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 1,616 reviews
on September 25, 2016
Last April I was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. After a stem cell transplant I am coming up for a year.

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.
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on January 26, 2015
I only read this book because Ken Burns produced a documentary on it that is coming out in the Spring of 2015. I really love Ken Burns documentaries, hence the interest. Across the book, there is only one common character, cancer. Although cancer is not a single disease but a collection of several diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of cells in the body, the book portrays cancer as a great villain, lurking in the shadows, ready to strike at any time. What makes this story different and far from dry is the way S. Mukherjee tells it: "the story of leukemia - the story of cancer - isn't the story of doctors who struggle and survive, moving from one institution to another. It is the story of patients who struggle and survive, moving from one embankment of illness to another. Resilience, inventiveness, and survivorship — qualities often ascribed to great physicians — are reflected qualities, emanating first from those who struggle with illness and only then mirrored by those who treat them. If the history of medicine is told through the stories of doctors, it is because their contributions stand in place of the more substantive heroism of their patients."

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.
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on May 10, 2017
This book was outstanding, and one that should be read with care for anyone working in oncology. Although factually interested, I felt the book was slightly dry while reviewing the early history of cancer care. The change in prose was palpable as it transitioned to modern oncology, where the author gave detailed, emotional accounts of his own patient interactions. The last 200 pages were phenomenal and often describes why I chose oncology as a profession. It gives beautiful descriptions of the grit patients have to endure such debilitating disease; transcending the physical body into a higher understanding.
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on July 5, 2015
I read this book after being treated with chemo, radiation and surgery for stage II breast cancer. The author's writing is luminous, passionate and powerful. What could have been a dry textbook of voluminous facts becomes an awe-inspiring journey through the history and future of cancer. The author's comprehensive knowledge and sharp intelligence make this book a riveting and compelling page-turner of mammoth scope and extraordinary detail. As a cancer survivor, I highly recommend this book to anyone touched by the disease.
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on July 2, 2016
This is a very interesting story about the history of cancer, its diagnosis and treatment. As a breast cancer survivor I was intrigued by the story. There have been great strides made in many cancers. Childhood leukemia has a cure. Quality of life issues are being addressed. Unfortunately, even with early detection and chemotherapy options, 40,000 are still dying from breast cancer each year. There are politics involved and that is very sad because there are life and death issues here. Perhaps Mukherjee will update the book to include advances (if there are any) from the Cancer Moonshot.
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on May 2, 2015
When I read that Ken Burns had taken this book for a TV Series, it caught my attention. I had figured it for a dry, Pulitzer Prize winning book. At about the time I noticed that Ken Burns had done the work and it had already been broadcast, my husband started Chemotherapy. So, I bought the book to better understand this Emperor. What a GREAT read. It is VERY well written. Understandable by non-scientists, a far amount of drama. It is sectioned in manageble segments and it turned into a page turner. Quite astonishing. Setting aside cancer, it also had important observations regarding research and its funding, the examples of working separately and how sometimes amazing collaborations were almost accidental. The shift to privately funded research and how it shifts to profit centers and leaves behind areas of interest that might benefit mankind. Fascinating. I bought the book and then also bought the e-version. I can more easily share the book, which is WORTH sharing and reading.
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on June 10, 2013
The subtitle provides a most accurate description of the book: "A biography of cancer". Siddhartha Mukherjee is a cancer doctor who takes us to a compelling journey to the desperate world of cancer, one of the most feared illnesses. The story begins in the first documented historical sightings of what might be cancer, an Egyptian hieroglyph (2500 BC) from the time of Imontap. The next jump in time is to a Persian queen named Atossa (500 BC) who might have suffered from a breast cancer, and we continue to the Greek slaves and eventually to our own time (around 1850- until today), where the story starts to delve into modern time medical reality.

The book is almost 500 pages long with the first 100 pages or so looks at its history, and the other 400 provides a detailed description of the research effort in the last 150 years. The research effort is wide and spans many areas, and it is very interesting to see the changes in the perception of the illness and possible treatments as research progresses. It is not far fetch to believe that people living in the year 2050 will look down at the primitive treatment that is currently available (that is in 2013).

Cancer is one of the most interesting illness and apparently one of the hardest to cure for two main reasons: The first being that fact that there are many different types. Where even within the same type (e.g. blood cancer), there are different subtypes that are classified by the difference in the mutated genes. The second reason is due to the fact that cancer cells are hard to target without harming the normal cells in the patient body. In other words, we're looking for a "smart" missile that will target only the evil cells.

The book provides a very interesting account of the creativity of the researchers in finding ways to deal with cancer. From traumatic operation that digs a large part of the body, to various toxics that kills every cells including the normal ones, and to the most recent advances in the molecular level that study specific genes (often muted) and tries to find a way to suppress their activity.

The book is highly interesting, (especially in its early parts) but my main criticism is that it is very *hard* book to read, almost frustratingly hard. Writing to a general audience is a skill that seems to be missing from the author (and editor) of this book. There are many popular science books on topics that are harder to explain (e.g. Quantum Physics), but for some reason this particular book seems to enjoy writing in a complex medical language for no reason. It tends to use complex medical terms that most readers (including me of course) do not fully understand. Moreover, even after encountering a complex medical term and understanding it once following a short internet search, they will probably won't remember it accurately in the next chapter. There is a short glossary at the end of the book, but I kept finding myself going to a nearby Internet connection to look for the meaning of various terms. For examples, "Carcinogenesis" (or Oncogenesis in other places), "Proto-oncogene", "Metastatic", and many others. The problem is getting worst in the last 100 pages, where without a descent knowledge in Biology and a good memory of the medical terms, you won't be able to understand the text in depth. I found myself very frustrated in that part of the book, as the reading became really cumbersome and not very enjoyable.

Anyway, for those we are willing to delve into the complex medical jargon, and do want to learn a great deal about Cancer, this book will meet their needs.
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on July 8, 2014
Fascinating and informative, and quite the tale of adventure. There is so much talk of cancer being a man-made disease and yet the author details references to it down through the ages, discusses anthropologic findings documenting its presence for many years, and describes how our modern day treatments have developed, often from incidents with what appeared to be initially, only catastrophic consequences. Having experienced family members dealing with the dread disease, I didn't know if I could get through this book, however, I am glad I did. I feel I have a better understanding of the process from the inside out, in addition to the physiological and emotional effect cancer has on its host. I'm comfortable with medical jargon yet I give 4 stars only because I did find it hard toward the end to get through much of the medical explanation of how cancer behaves. I was reminded, once again, that those who make true changes in our world are often the renegades who are criticized and misunderstood. While not always accurate, they at least carry the courage of their conviction and open another door to further our understanding. The author shares much of his experience with his patients, and clearly has a pathos for his patients and this topic.
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on June 21, 2017
As a writer, Mukherjee is a magician. In his hands and with considerable care and literary sensibility, this carefully researched, often technical, nonfiction book about a terrifying, relentless, and very wily disease, is as gripping as a very fine modern novel. In The Emperor of All Maladies, Mukherjee tells us the story of cancer, it’s history, how the disease has been understood over its recorded history, and how each theory produced treatments and spurred subsequent research and theories. We meet cancer patients, physicians, researchers, politicians, champions, benefactors, demonstrators—and yes, naysayers. Highly recommended.
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on May 23, 2017
This book is fantastic!! It provides an exhaustive history of cancer and really helps the reader understand the nature of cancer. Cancer is not one decease, but many. It is extremely complicated and even though we[re making lots of progress thanks to many people that have dedicated their lives to raising funding, there is still lots of study to be done. Even though, the author presents a lot of detail it is very interesting how he presents the history of the different angles, for example, I did not know that cancer can be caused by viruses, environment and hereditary. I am not doing justice to the book - it just fantastic - I feel extremely educated about cancer, the therapy used and how it came about - also where we are now.
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