It’s hard today to remember how recently cancer was a silent killer, a dreaded disease about which people rarely spoke in public. In hospitals and doctors’ offices, conversations about malignancy were hushed and hope was limited. In this deeply researched book, Elaine Schattner reveals a sea change—from before 1900 to the present day—in how ordinary people talk about cancer.
From Whispers to Shouts examines public perception of cancer through stories in newspapers and magazines, social media, and popular culture. It probes the evolving relationship between journalists and medical specialists and illuminates the role of women and charities that distributed medical information. Schattner traces the origins of patient advocacy and activism from the 1920s onward, highlighting how, while doctors have lost control of messages about cancer, survivors have gained visibility and voice.
The book’s final section lays out provocative questions facing the cancer community today—including distrust of oncologists, concerns over financial burdens, and disparities in cancer treatments and care. Schattner considers how patients and their loved ones struggle to make decisions amid conflicting information and opinions. She explores the ramifications of so much openness, good and bad, and asks: Has awareness backfired? Instead, Schattner contends, we need greater understanding of cancer’s treatability.