Book Review: Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book

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Susan M Love M D. with Karen Lindsey
Second Edition Fully Revised.
Persus Books, Cambridge, Massachusetts

By Irene D'Souza

Dr. Susan Love, a practicing breast surgeon, performs a feat of literary magic.

She transmits the serious and somewhat confusing subject of female breasts into a provocative and enlightening book that engages the reader.

Here is a book that gives you everything you wanted to know about your breasts but were afraid to ask - or perhaps never thought to ask.

Love covers the healthy breast, common problems, their causes, treatments and living with breast cancer. But she also examines the profound psychological hold our breasts have over our lives.

She discusses our culture's and our own obsession with our breasts.

Love talks about how many women are not satisfied with their breasts. Although, medically speaking a normal breast is one that is capable of producing milk, we are immersed in an culture that idolizes an image (think playboy or billboard expectations) that most of us do not match.

Each chapter provides pertinent information, illustrated diagrams, relevant biology and psychology of the breast - all presented in everyday language.

Love endorses the idea of the individual taking full responsibility for getting acquainted with her breasts.

The causes of problems with our breasts are explained in easy-to-understand language - and from a voice of medical authority.

As a woman, Love challenges the idea that mastectomies are "tossing the excess baggage overboard to keep the ship of life afloat" - a notion held largely among the male-dominated medical establishment.

Love assigns a medical and psychological model to each of the concerns and her underlying thesis is that every woman ought to be treated with dignity. Open communication between doctor and patient is vital, she finds.

Unconventionally, Love does not advocate the concept of Breast Self Examination (BSE).

She does recommend that women get acquainted with their breasts and experience them in all their variations.

But BSE, she says, "alienates women from their breasts instead of making them more comfortable with them. It puts you in the position of examining yourself once a month to see if your breast has betrayed you. It becomes you against your breast: can you find the tiniest lump that may be cancer?"