Understanding Cancer

A clear, dispassionate style, precise and up-to-date information, and a caring attitude mark John Laszlo’s UNDERSTANDING CANCER. The author, himself a cancer patient, intends to introduce the subject of cancer, its origins, treatment, and prevention to intelligent but uninformed laypersons, and he does it very successfully. UNDERSTANDING CANCER is permeated with the author’s firm belief that physician and patient are partners in the enterprise to treat, research, and cure this dreaded disease.

Laszlo begins by explaining the initial visit to the physician, discussing the importance of getting a second opinion (yet without insulting the diagnosing physician), and giving advice on how best to obtain and evaluate medical care. The author also emphasizes the importance of trust in and communication with the cancer patient’s treating physician, the different treatments available and their efficacy, the cost of treatment and possible methods of payment, and the various known causes of cancer and their prevention.

Other strengths of UNDERSTANDING CANCER include definitions of the different types of cancer, diets that aggravate or seem to prevent cancer, and charts and statistics on cure rates. Because the author understands the desire of cancer patients to try any therapy, no matter how bizarre, even if their physicians recommend against it, he discusses the differences between experimental treatments and questionable therapies and gives guidelines on how the layperson can evaluate them. He also offers an examination of the present state of cancer research and lists organizations that give help and support to cancer sufferers and their families.

Laszlo includes a section on the legal aspects of illness and points out the importance of writing a will and planning one’s funeral, to relieve the minds of both the patient before and his loved ones after death. He does, however, recommend that cancer patients consult a competent attorney before making testamentary dispositions, deciding on a living will, or making other legal decisions. The bibliography includes citations to both scientific literature and literature written specifically for the layperson, and there is a well-constructed index.