Between 1951 and 1966, more than twelve hundred homeless, alcoholic men from New York’s skid row were subjected to invasive medical procedures, including open perineal biopsy of the prostate gland. If positive for cancer, men typically underwent prostatectomy, surgical castration, and estrogen treatments. The Bowery series was meant to answer important questions about prostate cancer’s diagnosis, natural history, prevention, and treatment. While the Bowery series had little ultimate impact on practice, in part due to ethical problems, its means and goals were prescient. In the ensuing decades, technological tinkering catalyzed the transformation of prostate cancer attitudes and interventions in directions that the Bowery series’ promoters had anticipated. These largely forgotten set of practices are a window into how we have come to believe that the screen and radical treatment paradigm in prostate cancer is efficacious and the underlying logic of the twentieth-century American quest to control cancer and our fears of cancer.


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pp. 287-317
Launched on MUSE
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