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Cancer, Shmancer

Fran Dreschler
Publish date: 
May 2002

If justice delayed is justice denied, the same can probably be said for health care. Early diagnosis is the key to effective treatment of most diseases. In TV star Fran Drescher's case, an accurate diagnosis came just in time. Cancer Schmancer is Drescher's fascinating, first-person account of her two-year battle with uterine cancer.

If you are expecting a woe-is-me recitation of a celebrity's encounters with an uncaring and evil healthcare system, this is not the book for you. It is, instead, a medical case history told in a frank and wonderfully humorous style. And it is a call to arms to any woman or man who anticipates seeking medical care in the future.

Drescher describes her visits to a series of healthcare professionals in an attempt to deal with recurring gynecological symptoms. Good and competent doctors failed to screen her for uterine cancer because Drescher fell outside the statistical parameters for the disease ? she was too young and too slender to be at risk. Uterine cancer was finally identified after a relatively simple test.

Her encounter with cancer is placed in rich context, interwoven with stories about her close-knit family, her dissolving marriage, career challenges, a new romance, her beloved dog, and the comforts and importance of close friendships. This is important material. It's a reminder that context is important when dealing with disease. Anyone who has ever experienced the modern healthcare system knows that as patients, we are rarely viewed in context. Yet our life stories, our fears, our hunches and our observations are as important to effective diagnosis and care as the medications and surgical intervention we receive. Unless we learn all that we can about our bodies and advocate for ourselves, we may miss out on the genuine benefits that modern health technology has to offer.

In that sense, Cancer Schmancer is as much a book for health care providers as it is for patients and their families. It serves up a gentle but clear warning to medical professionals: pay attention to what your patients say; pay attention to what your patients know.

As writer of non-fiction, Drescher is no Joan Didion. But she is the ideal messenger for this sometimes-discomfiting subject. Over the past decade, she has managed to craft an accessible and self-deprecating image that belies her beauty and comic talent. With this book she has succeeded in producing an entertaining read from a traumatic and life-changing experience. Most important, Drescher has done some important homework for all of us. As future patients, we should all pay attention to what she has to say.

Warner Books