From Siddhartha Mukherjee’s Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (2010), London: Fourth Estate.

“The social outcry about cancer ... drifted into silence. After the brief flurry of attention in the press, cancer again became the great unmentionable, the whispered-about disease that no one spoke about publicly. In the early 1950s, Fanny Rosenow, a breast cancer survivor and cancer advocate, called the New York Times to post an advertisement for a support group for women with breast cancer. Rosenow was put through, puzzingly, to the society editor of the newspaper. When she asked about placing her announcement, a long pause followed. ‘I’m sorry, Mrs. Rosenow, but the Times cannot publish the word breast or the word cancer in its pages. Perhaps’ the editor continued ‘you could say there will be a meeting about diseases of the chest wall’.


Rosenow hung up, disgusted.”



Is cancer still ‘unmentionable’?  If not, how is it talked about now?


Share your thoughts about this passage from The Emperor of Maladies.


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