The Truth About Breast Cancer


308 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-7737-2833-3
DDC 362.1'96994490082





Reviewed by Moira Harris

Moira Harris is a graduate student in animal behavior at the University
of Saskatchewan.


The breast is a universal symbol of a woman’s identity and sexuality.
Losing a breast involves much more than simple amputation of a body
part. It is to Claire Hoy’s credit that he has tackled this most
female of subjects at all; it is all the more impressive that he has
done so with intelligence and, for the most part, sensitivity.

This book was inspired by passion and tragedy: Hoy’s first wife,
Beverley, died of the disease in 1976, at age 33. In the past 20 years,
few real advances in the treatment and prevention of this mutilating and
misunderstood illness have been made. The incidence of breast cancer,
however, is rising, for unknown reasons: between 1980 and 1988, breast
cancer in Canadian women increased by 15 percent.

Each chapter in the book examines one or more medical and political
aspects of the disease: for example, the use of tamoxifen as a
preventive drug in supposedly high-risk women; the breast-cancer gene;
mammography; breast implants; “alternative” therapies; and the
possible carcinogenic effect of environmental pollutants. The sections
are densely packed with names, facts, and figures, which makes for heavy
and at times confusing reading. The book, however, is thoroughly
researched (Hoy acknowledges the aid of two researchers), well
constructed, and generally understandable. Although no one could mistake
Hoy’s perspective for that of a feminist, most of the writing is free
of sexism and political bias. Some sections do, however, reflect his
prejudices. Hoy’s stance in the abortion debate is made clear when,
for example, he discusses the putative role of abortion as a
breast-cancer risk factor. More subtle is the subtext to his otherwise
striking discussion of funding inequities between AIDS and breast-cancer
research, which points out that sexual behavior does not cause breast


Hoy, Claire., “The Truth About Breast Cancer,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed March 1, 2024,