In this "powerful and unflinching page-turner" (New York Times), a healthcare journalist examines the science, history, and culture of breast cancer.
As a health-care journalist, Kate Pickert knew the emotional highs and lows of medical treatment well -- but always from a distance, through the stories of her subjects. That is, until she was unexpectedly diagnosed with an aggressive type of breast cancer at the age of 35. As she underwent more than a year of treatment, Pickert realized that the popular understanding of breast care in America bears little resemblance to the experiences of today's patients and the rapidly changing science designed to save their lives. After using her journalistic skills to navigate her own care, Pickert embarked on a quest to understand the cultural, scientific and historical forces shaping the lives of breast-cancer patients in the modern age.
Breast cancer is one of history's most prolific killers. Despite billions spent on research and treatments, it remains one of the deadliest diseases facing women today. From the forests of the Pacific Northwest to an operating suite in Los Angeles to the epicenter of pink-ribbon advocacy in Dallas, Pickert reports on the turning points and people responsible for the progress that has been made against breast cancer and documents the challenges of defeating a disease that strikes one in eight American women and has helped shape the country's medical culture.
Drawing on interviews with doctors, economists, researchers, advocates and patients, as well as on journal entries and recordings collected over the author's treatment, Radical puts the story of breast cancer into context, and shows how modern treatments represent a long overdue shift in the way doctors approach cancer -- and disease -- itself.
Pickert, a Loyola Marymount College journalism professor, delivers a compassionate, lucid, and well-researched account of historic and ongoing attempts to combat breast cancer. Woven into Pickert's evenhanded narrative is her own story of being diagnosed with the disease at age 35 and navigating options for dealing with a particularly aggressive form. For all the efforts directed toward breast cancer awareness ("it seems there is not a consumer-product category in America that is pink-ribbon-free"), she finds that many people know relatively little about it. To illuminate the great progress that's been made in treatment and the many challenges that remain, Pickert pays visits to a UCLA operating suite, to observe a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, and to the sprawling campus of the nation's first biotechnology company, Genentech, to learn about its drug development efforts. She interviews Dr. Larry Norton, "arguably the most influential living breast cancer doctor in America"; Dr. Laura Esserman, head of a large-scale trial aimed at updating breast cancer screening norms; and a slew of epidemiologists, patients, and advocates. A skilled and thorough journalist, Pickert crafts a comprehensive and up-to-date account of a disease that strikes one in eight American women.