The difficult but transforming experience of facing and surviving cancer takes center stage in the personal and professional saga, Beauty Without the Breast, by Felicia Marie Knaul (Harvard University Press, 2012). An economist who has lived and worked on health and social development in Latin America for 20 years, Knaul is director of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. She documents her personal and family experience, while directing a lens to the majority of women with cancer throughout the world, with a particular focus on poor women in low- and middle-income countries who face not only the disease, but also stigma, discrimination, and poor access to health care.

The wrenching contrast is the cancer divide, an equity imperative in global health. Knaul is dedicated to closing the gap—in prevention, treatment, and survival rates—that exists between these disparate worlds and their health care systems. “To think about other women who could not get the care I received because they had no money made me physically nauseous. There’s no justice there,” said Knaul.

At a book launch event at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston on October 22, 2012, Knaul, her husband Julio Frenk, dean of Harvard School of Public Health, their two daughters, and several colleagues presented myriad perspectives on the facts and dynamics of breast cancer, a growing global epidemic.

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