Health Tech Reads: The Emporer of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

The summary for #HTreads this week was written by Melanie Hilliard, an accomplished marketing creative in health informatics.

My history with cancer is a personal one. I’m sure I’m not the only #HTReads book club member whose life has been touched by the disease.


My father received his terminal cancer diagnosis of multiple myeloma at 49, although he had been sick for more than one year with unknown symptoms and no treatment plan. He passed at age 56 despite receiving remarkable care at the City of Hope in Duarte, California. I spent the bulk of my early 20s fighting the disease alongside him.


Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer begins with some startling statistics.


“In 2010, about six hundred thousand Americans, and more than 7 million humans around the world, will die of cancer. In the United States, one in three women and one in two men will develop cancer during their lifetime. A quarter of all American deaths, and about 15 percent of all deaths worldwide, will be attributed to cancer. In some nations, cancer will surpass heart disease to become the most common cause of death.”


I am most certainly not alone in my grief for a dying a loved one lost to cancer far too early.


Mukherjee offers up a sweeping and ambitious biography of cancer. From its first appearance in an Egyptian text written in 2500 BC to our modern-day treatments administered by doctors like Mukherjee.


Join us for the #HTReads Tweetchat on Tuesday, November 7 at 9:30 PM ET to discuss the book.


Q1: Mukerjee’s essential question is this: Is cancer’s end conceivable in the future? Why/Why not?


Q2: Is the war metaphor (i.e. the war on cancer) an apt one? What other metaphor makes sense?


Q3: What are some recent advances in health IT that are being used to improve health outcomes for patients?


Q4: Where/how does former Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative play a role in the history of cancer?


Q5: What is the patient experience like for cancer patients? How does Mukherjee portray the patient in his book? What is your personal experience?


Bonus question: Does “knowing your enemy”—knowing cancer—bring some kind of comfort?


The Emporer of all Maladies