"The scientific and clinical content of the book is accurate, engaging, and accessible to those with little scientific knowledge... sections of the book impressively convey issues that people sometimes grapple with"
It's strange how people tend to notice the smallest inconsequential things about a day that changed their lives forever—the falling rain, the colour of their shirt, the strength of their coffee. Such sensual experiences become embedded in memories, adding detail to an experience that is almost inhuman. One in three: a son's journey into the history and science of cancer effectively captures the real and seemingly surreal aspects of family life that occur after a diagnosis of cancer. Moreover, Wishart's book tacitly adds myriad details to the lives of those who have played a pivotal part in cancer research and treatment.
Marrying together the narrative of his father's diagnosis, treatment, and death from cancer of an unknown primary site with that of a history of cancer, Wishart begins with the surgical removal of a tumour in the vertebrae of his father's neck, and uses this as a vehicle to describe the first tumour excision in front of an audience of London doctors in 1831. Subsequent chapters follow a similar, rather arresting reading format: his father's continued treatment with radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and alternative medicine introduces readers to those who made a notable contribution to cancer. Wishart has penned excellent portrayals of the lives of Rudolf Virchow, Marie Curie, Wilhelm Hueper, Richard Doll, Austin Bradford Hill, Sidney Farber, Mary Lasker (who kick-started Richard Nixon's war on cancer), Penny Brohn (who established the Bristol Cancer Help Centre in the UK), Robert Weinberg, and Bernard Fisher. Throughout, the political context in which these people worked enriches the text. Of particular note are the descriptions of Marie Curie's work as she lobbied for research funds in the USA and that of Bernard Fisher's breast-cancer prevention trial, which is written with great insight into the point of view of society and the media during that time.
The scientific and clinical content of the book is accurate, engaging, and accessible to those with little scientific knowledge; however, Wishart uses analogy as his vehicle of explanation to ensure that concepts are not oversimplified. Some sections of the book impressively convey issues that people sometimes grapple with: a chapter on prevention, for instance, discusses the difficulty in communicating risk, and in developing and licensing a drug—in ensuring that its benefits justifiably outweigh the risks. For clinicians, this book may be a useful source of information to recommend to patients, or it may serve simply as an interesting read into how contemporary cancer research and treatment came into being.
Wishart's overarching theme is hope—that treatment and quality of life for patients with cancer worldwide will continue to improve, accompanied by improved understanding of cancer and greater empowerment of patients. One in three certainly contributes to these hopes.