- Hardcover: 592 pages
- Publisher: Fourth Estate; 1st Edition edition (20 Jan. 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0007250916
- ISBN-13: 978-0007250912
- Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 4.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 199 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 658,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Emperor of All Maladies Hardcover – 20 Jan 2011
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'Sid Mukherjee's book is a pleasure to read, if that is the right word. Cancer today is widely regarded as the worst of all the diseases from which one might suffer - if only because it is fast becoming the most common. Dr. Mukherjee explains how this perception came about, how cancer has been regarded across the years and what is now being done to treat its protean forms. His book is the clearest account I have read on this subject. With The Emperor of all Maladies, he joins that small fraternity of practicing doctors who cannot just talk about their profession but write about it.'
Tony Judt, author of Postwar and III Fares the Land
‘Rarely have the science and poetry of illness been so elegantly braided together as they are in this erudite, engrossing, kind book. Mukherjee's clinical wisdom never erases the personal tragedies which are its occasion; indeed, he locates with meticulous clarity and profound compassion the beautiful hope buried in cancer's ravages.’
Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of The Noonday Demon
A comprehensive history of cancer -- one of the greatest enemies of medical progress -- and an insight into its effects and potential cures, by a leading expert on the illness. Cancer is one of a handful of human ailments that continue to elude us. The modern age is plagued with news of rising cancer rates, all kinds of possible man-made causes and a constant stream of potential miracle cures. In the course of his investigations into cancer, however, Siddhartha Mukherjee discovered that it is an ancient illness, which endured for centuries as a private matter, swaddled in secrecy and shame. Peering beyond the screen he saw that every generation had imagined cancer uniquely, and made its own desperately inventive attempt to find a cure. It is only over recent generations that cancer has morphed into one of the most public and politically scrutinised diseases of our era. Mukherjee delves into the larger history of cancer. How old is it? When did the battle against it begin? How have we -- as a society -- dealt with its challenge? How have we imagined the disease and what forces have we marshalled against it? Essentially: where are we in the war against cancer?What, if anything, have we won so far, and what have we lost? Cancer is a survivor: it changes, it adapts, it evolves, it grows. It is so close to us in biology that, in destroying it, we often destroy ourselves. The quest for the 'cure' for cancer has gradually transformed into a lodestone quest, the yardstick of our scientific and medical progress. This book is the story of that quest.See all Product description
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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
Mukherjee envisages Cancer as not one disease but more a family. His is a fascination with the world of the cancer patient, one which around a half of us will inhabit at some time. There is no panacea but in a battery of treatments there is hope, such that more will die with than of the disease; this is part of a movement quashing the old equating of Cancer with Death.
One cavil: he refers to largely American research and developments, which lessens his scope somewhat. I still have read it straight though three times in the year I have had it. Brilliant.
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