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Facing Cancer - "The Emperor of All Maladies" with care, compassion and candour

12-April-2013 0:00
in General
by Dr. Megan Joffe

Facing Cancer: “The Emperor of All Maladies” with care, compassion and candour


Today’s news that by 2020 one in two of us will have had some type of diagnosis of cancer is alarming for us as individuals but also for the Health Service and those who work in it!  The increasing patient load will test the services, and the individuals working with these patients. I envisage strong challenges to the values of care, compassion and candour. I note increasing candour in discussing cancer and helping patients to deal with difficulties and challenges of surviving with the disease or dealing with the consequences of having to manage the disease.   I wanted to recommend a wonderful book called The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee, an oncologist in the US.

Written like a detective story you will be intrigued and gripped by the story that Mukherjee has woven to explain the history of the search for a cure. You will be struck by the dedication of those who give their lives to exploring cancer and working towards a cure; you will be fascinated by the clear descriptions of what can seem complex and beyond our understanding; you will be surprised by the chance nature of some discoveries. Don’t be put off by the length of the book – much of it is given to references – making it evidence based enough even for sceptical scientific minds. The book is written with such care, compassion and candour that you cannot but be fascinated by the disease that is cancer – it will take away some of the fear and mystery. This book should be mandatory reading for doctors and patients and for everyone else given that at least half of us will face this diagnosis.

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