By Ellen Leopold
A Twentieth-Century tale of Breast melanoma, girls, and Their DoctorsIn the 1st cultural historical past of breast melanoma, Ellen Leopold asks how sexual politics have formed the connection among sufferer and health care provider, and the way a illness lately shrouded in secrecy has turn into so public.
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Additional info for A DARKER RIBBON: A TWENTIETH-CENTURY STORY OF BREAST CANCER, WOMAN, AND THEIR DOCTORS
But interleaved in this material was a body of evidence I always found shocking, no matter how many hours of dutiful note-taking had dulled my concentration. What never failed to electrify me were the photographs of women, shown naked to the waist, revealing breast tumors of truly monstrous sizes and shapes arrayed across their chests. For whatever reasons, their physicians had determined that their tumors were inoperable; they had been left to suffer the unmitigated pain of cancer in the breast itself as well as the insidious but invisible spread of disease throughout their bodies.
As Chapter 5 documents at some length, the combination of early detection and early treatment, first set in place by the education cam- Page 13 paigns of the cancer charity, has been this century's stand-in for genuine cure or prevention. It has been kept alive, over most of the period, by regular transfusions of new technology. The steady improvement of diagnostic techniques has repeatedly given it a new lease on life as incidence and death rates from breast cancer continued to rise. The American Cancer Society, the original mastermind of this strategy, has never faltered, over three-quarters of a century, in its promotion of early detection.
The treatment of breast cancer set in place by Halsted and his students remained fundamentally unchanged throughout this period. The two women patients were educated and articulate and both were determined to play an active role in the management of their disease. The first, a woman we will call Barbara Mueller, had been born in 1867 and was in paid employment at the time of her diagnosis. The second woman was the scientist and writer Rachel Carson (author of Silent Spring), who was exceptionally well qualified to participate in such a correspondence.