The History and Mystery of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer and its treatment is a terribly complex problem that involves all the intricacies of the human body, the anatomical and microscopic anatomy of the breast, the endocrine system, and bone metabolism, as well as the nature of malignant transformation. Even experts still have uncertainties. However, there is now an ethical and legal obligation for specialists to share their uncertainties with their patients when we are looking for informed consent before invasive procedures. Obsessive ruminations about the threat of breast cancer mean that few in the lay public know that breast cancer has slipped out of the top seven causes of death for women. Treatments for breast cancer might increase the risk of death from cardio-vascular disease, whilst, on the other hand, denying women in this age group hormone replacement therapy for the unjustified fear of breast cancer can impair their quality of life, cognitive function and bone mineral density. The totality of women’s health and expectation of life must always trump the single-issue fanatics who only view women as the sum of their two breasts.
This is more than a self-help book, but should also be considered as introducing the history and mystery of breast cancer, from the time of the Ancient Egyptians to the modern era, as well as hopes for the future.
Michael Baum has held Chairs of Surgery at Kings College London, the Institute of Cancer Research, and University College London. He has specialised in the research and treatment of breast cancer for 50 years, and was one of the pioneers of breast conserving surgery and most recently developed a new technique for delivering radiotherapy at the same time as the removal of the breast tumour. On retiring as a Professor of Surgery at University College London, he spent the rest of his career teaching and promoting the medical humanities, including fine art, literature, moral and scientific philosophy. In addition, he retrained as an artist at Hampstead School of Art and works with oils using both classic and impressionist techniques. He has published more than 500 scientific papers, several books on cancer and philosophy and two novels linked to his other interest in biblical archaeology.
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