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on May 10, 2011
I came to this book expecting to learn something about a disease that has struck my family and affected my life. It revolutionised my understanding of the disease and brought to life the medical saga that has become a modern marvel. The author writes with style and grace. It is a humane book about real human beings who struggle with a wiley, difficult and vicious foe. It artfully illustrates the tragedy, pathos, ruthlessnes, humanity and realism of those who battle with cancer. Ultimately, we are permitted to glimpse the deep mystery and majesty of the disease and our own complex biological form. Fantastic read.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon June 27, 2011
This book is gripping, informative, compassionate and comprehensive. But its not out of reach for lay readers. We see the evolution of our understanding of cancer and how modern science and medicine have allowed us to more fully understand this monster, provide some additional cures and help us to realize just how difficult the road to further cures will be. Cancer touches us all in some way or another, so I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone.
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on September 3, 2014
People in the past tended to die of other diseases (and in poorer countries, still do), but as our longevity increases so does the incidence of cancer. As we extend our lives, Mukherjee writes, ‘we inevitably unleash malignant growth’. But what is cancer, how can we understand and treat it?

In this book, which I first read a couple of years ago, Siddhartha Mukherjee writes of the first documented appearances of cancer thousands of years ago, of the Persian Queen Atossa (550-475 BCE) who has surgery for a bleeding lump in her breast (as recorded by Herodotus in ‘The Histories’), of primitive radiation and chemotherapy treatments in the nineteenth century, of the new treatments available to patients now.

In addition to discussing treatments (and some of us will remember those who had endured the Halsted radical mastectomy for breast cancer) Dr Mukherjee examines the aetiology and pathology of cancer, and some of those who’ve been involved in the quest for understanding and answers. Our co-existence with cancer over the past five thousand years or so has not been passive: physicians, surgeons and scientists have all sought to understand and hoped to conquer the disease. Dr Mukherjee recounts discoveries and setbacks, deaths and victories. Understanding the journey brings the reader in contact with both the best and worst of humanity: dedicated and obsessive; ingenious and resilient; hubristic and inflexible; arrogant and detached.

‘Cancer, we have discovered, is stitched into our genome.’

Although the topic of cancer is uncomfortable and difficult, Dr Mukherjee has presented a very readable history of the disease and of progress in combatting it. Some of this progress is too late for family and friends who’ve already succumbed to death as a consequence of cancer, but is helping many people now and will (presumably) help more in the future. There’s hope in this book: that a better understanding of disease processes will lead to better health outcomes.

If there is a war against cancer, what will be our measure of victory? What constitutes a cure?

‘This war on cancer may best be ‘won’ by redefining victory.’

Both my parents and a number of friends have died of cancer in the past four years, and other friends are fighting their own battles. I’ve revisited this book recently, to remind myself that there has been great progress, and there is hope.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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on December 13, 2013
Very good overview and history of the presence and treatment of this horrible disease. This book is well researched,informative and highly accessible to all readers with an interest in the subject matter.
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on April 29, 2012
Written with the precision of a scientist but with a large dose of humanity, The Emperor of All Maladies is a must read for anyone even remotely interested in learning about cancer and its role in modern society.

In a sentence, it's the history of cancer and all the attempts to cure/fight/eradicate it, with most emphasis on 20th century breakthroughs. It is therefore also the history of medicine involving not only the medical community but also key protagonists from all walks of life; scientists, politicians, socialites, financiers and of course patients. It is revealing of how western societies tackled major healthcare and public policy issues over the course of the past century, how they matured, and were humbled in the process. It's futile to add more comments or attempt to analyze the book since I consider it a masterpiece that captivates the reader from beginning to end! Just read it, you''ll understand!
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on November 17, 2011
This book is a superbly crafted history of cancer. It takes us from its earliest discovery and classification up to the present methods of treating it. The author has first hand knowledge of his topic and provides us with a bedside view of his and other patients. A very empathetic view of the suffering people endure as part of a successful or otherwise recovery and a detailed critique of how this disease has been as is being attacked.
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on September 24, 2011
Really well written, the only thing is that it may become tiresome or hard to follow for those who are not familiar with the medical world after a few chapters. However, it is still an excellent book and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in non-fiction
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on April 18, 2011
'The Emperor of all Maladies a Biography of Cancer' by Siddhartha Mukherjee is a well put together book. It is organized and well thought out. It starts at the beginning of recorded history of cancer and ends with our present day knowledge of cancer. The book covers how humans have treated cancer from the beginning to the present.

The book terrified me in some parts; reading how they treated breast cancer, performing mastectomies without anesthetic and how crippled the women would be after the procedure if they survived.

'The Emperor of all Maladies' is a frightening reminder of how little we do know about cancer. One thing I have learned over the years is that knowledge and how we apply our knowledge is always changing. What we believe is true today will most likely be false tomorrow and this applies to the medical field and from reading this book you will see how it applies to cancer.

Cancer is part of our society and as our population ages it well become an even greater part of who we are...with the majority of us living a long life...the majority of us well encounter some form of cancer. What is the best way to beat cancer? More money, it really is that simple...with the money available to the many intelligent individuals out there willing to do research, I truly believe we could have better survival rates and less toxic, less side effect ridden medications. Will we ever beat cancer? I doubt it, but we sure could treat it in a more patient friendly way.

I have always had a love for the field of genetics and this book feeds that passion. The book is informative and interesting and contains enough science to teach the reader about what is the cause of cancer and how can we treat it. I always love a book that teaches me new things and this one succeeds on many levels.
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on December 6, 2013
I have written 75 poems to work through my husband's final journey with cancer and considered cancer a character, as Siddhartha Mukherjee does in his heart-wrenching/heartwarming biography of cancer. He fleshes out all the heroic men and women who went against the grain to consider cancer in new and fruitful ways. The book is beautifully written with courage and compassion and very apt metaphors to bring home the struggles, triumphs and tribulations of working in the cancer field.
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on March 25, 2013
This book is very insightful and interesting. Once you start reading it is hard to put the book down. My family, like many others, has been touched by cancer and because of these encounters it has shaped who I am today. The Emperor of All Maladies was riveting and I would recommend it to anyone who has, or is battling cancer and even the care givers and family members effected! It is a bit challenging to read in places; however, it is definitely worth the time and effort to read!!
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