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Cancer » Burst Cancer

The Beginnings of Breast Cancer- a Brief History

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At present, Breast cancer accounts for 25% of all cases of cancer in women. Back in 2012, 1.68 million cases of breast cancer were registered globally, out of which, 522,000 turned out to be fatal.


Currently, the five-year-log survival rates for it fall between 80 and 90 percent in the developed countries.

Needless to say, breast cancer is both a leading ailment and an immensely puzzling subject. It has been profoundly studied and researched to discover new ways to treat it. While the medical world is using novel approaches to deal with this disease, let’s get you a look at the early detections of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer- Historical Evidence Found in Egypt, Greece, and Rome

The Edwin Smith Papyrus, dating to the 16-17th dynasties, is the oldest document of its kind to talk about objective medical facts in a logical light with no hint of magical beliefs whatsoever.

This papyrus describes the cases of tumours in the breast. It also talks about using cauterisation and a special tool known as the fire drill to deal with the cyst. The Papyrus also mentions having no treatment for breast cancer.

In early 400 B.C.E, Hippocrates described the possible stages of breast cancer. In between 42 BC and 37 AD, Aulus Cornelius Celsus, a Roman Physician, used his manuscript called De Medicina to talk about breast carcinoma.

Galen of Pergamum was probably the first to link the occurrence of breast lumps to ceased menstruation. Hippocrates of the ancient Greeks called breast carcinoma ‘the Wandering Womb’ because he gathered that the uterus could change position inside a woman’s body, leaving diseases behind it.

The Middle Ages Went Religious in Their Healing Attempts, Only to Be Reverted on the Scientific Path by the Renaissance

Doctors began trying surgical incisions in efforts to destroy the tumour in the first century AD. However, with the onset of the Middle Age, new religious philosophies started taking over reasonable medical findings.

Christians started favouring faith healing and considered surgery a cruel attempt. Greek medical texts were studied and reviewed by the Islamic doctors.

Near the close of the Middle Ages, improved attempts started taking shape again. Doctors started experimenting and began exploring human bodies to study and discover ailments and treatments.

John Hunter’s research revealed lymph to be the cause of breast cancer. It even earned Hunter the crown of the Scottish Father of Investigative Surgery. Since anaesthesia hadn't been discovered at the time, while surgeons did perform lumpectomies, it was required of them to be as fast and accurate as possible to attain a successful operation.

Things Started Looking up after the 19th Century

William Halstead conducted the first ever radical mastectomy in 1882. Up until 1932, when a new, less invasive, approach to mastectomy came into light, the radical version remained the standard procedure for breast cancer treatment.

After Marie and Pierre Curie had brought the radioactive elements(polonium and radium) to the game, cancer treatments started using radium. By 1937, radiation therapy was being used alongside surgery to save the breast.

In 1978, the first drug (tamoxifen) in the line of SERMs or Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator drugs was developed and used against cancer. Between 1996 and 2006, FDA approved two important drugs, anastrozole and trastuzumab, for breast cancer treatment.

Scientists found the genetic connection of breast cancer in 1984, called the HER2 gene. They cloned HER2 in 1986. In 1998, trastuzumab was developed with the intent to target cancer cells that overproduce HER2 and result in aggressive cancer.

The 21st Century Has More to Offer

The doctors continue to look into new revelations about breast cancer. Sure, we have come a long way from the Greek beliefs and the theory of the Wandering Womb. However, to develop more tailored treatments that adhere to different subtypes of breast cancer and treat varying patterns with effect, a lot remains to be uncovered.

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