By Ellen Leopold

A Twentieth-Century tale of Breast melanoma, ladies, and Their DoctorsIn the 1st cultural historical past of breast melanoma, Ellen Leopold asks how sexual politics have formed the connection among sufferer and general practitioner, and the way a illness lately shrouded in secrecy has develop into so public.

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Extra resources for A DARKER RIBBON: A TWENTIETH-CENTURY STORY OF BREAST CANCER, WOMAN, AND THEIR DOCTORS

Sample text

It meant that many more women suffering from painful symptoms of disease in the breast could now be treated. But it also meant that more women submitted to treatment that exacted a terrible toll on their bodies. By the turn of the century, the radical mastectomy, as refined by William Stewart Halsted, first professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins, had become the "gold standard," and survival rates following surgery appeared to improve. But the apparent success of radical treatment had as much to do with the benefits of earlier detection, a more careful selection of surgical candidates, and improvements in anaesthetic and pre- and postoperative care as with any curative powers of the surgery itself.

Their goals are short-term, immediate, and aimed at individual readers, not at society at large. 2 Written history, on the other hand, may be less immediately instrumental but its long-term implications are just as significant. Contemporary beliefs about and attitudes toward breast cancer do not simply mirror contemporary cultural themes or medical views. They reflect instead the markings characteristic of any disease of great antiquity, the scarred remains of earlier attempts to rationalize, pacify, or deny an enemy that could not be subdued.

It does not, in fact, appear at all but remains offstage, hidden away from public view. All of these characteristics tend to deprive the disease of the high drama evoked by epidemics. Epidemics mobilize an immediate and widespread public response, summoning all the skills, practical and precautionary, that can be made available through agencies of public health. Everyone is caught up in them. Inevitably, they are attention-grabbing and make headlines. The opportunities they offer for both Page 9 tragedy and heroism make media coverage of them irresistable.

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A DARKER RIBBON: A TWENTIETH-CENTURY STORY OF BREAST CANCER, by Ellen Leopold
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