When cancer is not cancer

“When cancer is not cancer.” By Peggy Orenstein, The California Sunday Magazine.

Peggy Orenstein (The New York Times bestselling author and contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine) writes a short, provocative profile of an influential cancer specialist in San Francisco who has proposed reclassifying nearly a third of breast cancer cases, and is launching a 100,000-patient trial to prove that her approach could reduce over-treatment and, possibly, save lives.

I walk past the unadorned doors at the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center at the University of California, San Francisco, along a corridor decorated in shades of mauve so soothing that they barely register as colors. All is generic, aggressively nondescript, until, that is, I reach the office of Laura Esserman, the center’s director. Her entryway is papered over with cartoons that mock right-wing pundits. There are inspirational quotes from Abraham Lincoln and Niccolò Machiavelli, among others, all boiling down to one sentiment: When you challenge people’s deeply held beliefs, well, haters gonna hate. Esserman has helped to catalyze some of the most contentious debates about breast cancer.

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