Review: To Dance With The Devil

Karen Stabiner is a nationally recognized journalist. She wrote about the work of Dr. Susan Love – the eminent breast surgeon,and director of the University of California, Los Angeles Breast Cancer Centre.

The following are quotations from the book:

Life is a Roulette

  • Those of us outside this world tend to divide the population into us – the healthy ones and them – breast cancer patients. There is no such line. Yesterday they were on our side, tomorrow any one of us could cross over.
  • There is no sure way to dodge breast cancer – no proven preventive, dependable treatment and no cure.
  • No one can promise a cure. No one can even promise a consensus, since treatment is an exasperating imprecise art. All the doctors can do is to make sure they get what those doctors define as comprehensive treatment. That is how bad it is.
  • The only certainty is that over 183,000 women will get breast cancer this year, and about 44,000 will die of it.
  • Worse yet, there seemed to be nothing a woman could do to improve her odds. Life is a roulette   when it comes to breast cancer.

Standard Recipe for Cancer

  • Doctors continued to depend on combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, despite their hit-and-miss success rate, because these were the only tools they had.
  • Medicine embraced action and discouraged inquiry.
  • Skeptics within the medical community suggested new remedies and watched their work go ignored for years.

Definition of Cure

  • Patients talked about being five years out as though that were an absolute demarcation. Dr. Susan Love had seen too many women recur at seven, eight, even ten years to buy that definition.
  • It is irresponsible to tell women they were cured at five years. Breast cancer grew slowly. Dr. Love had seen too many bleak surprises. Love did not believe in the nation of a cure.

You Never Catch Breast Cancer Only Yesterday

  • Breast cancer patients were probably starting to get sick eight to ten years before I met them. They did not know it – it could not, since neither a mammogram nor a physical examination can detect breast cancer when the first malignant cell divides.
  • It takes an average of one hundred days for that cell to turn into two, another hundred for those two to turn into four, and on and on, until one billion cancer cells reside in a woman’s body. Only then does the cancer elicit a response – the lump or mass that shows up as a showdown on a mammogram or under probing fingers. (But) it is in fact not the cancer itself but a reaction to it – an irritation.