A Brief History of Breast Cancer

A Brief History of Breast Cancer

Ancient Egyptians first noted and recorded the disease as tumors, or ulcers, of the breasts, concluded that there was no real cure and that the only form of treatment was cauterization with a tool called the “fire drill”. Since then, there have been many similar cases described by doctors throughout history that concluded that there was no cure; or really effective treatment.

When doctors started to understand the human circulatory system in the seventieth century, they also managed to establish a link between breast cancer and the lymph nodes in the armpits. Between the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, the French surgeon Jean Petit and Scotsman Benjamin Bell were the first ones to remove the lymph nodes, breast tissue and chest muscle in an effort to save woman from breast cancer.

By the 1880s, William Halsted started performing mastectomies. His procedure became known as the Halsted Radical Mastectomy and it remained a popular procedure in the fight against breast cancer right up to the 1970s.

Breast cancer is a cancer of the glandular breast tissue and is found in both male and female patients. Worldwide breast cancer accounts for almost 1% of all deaths, is the fifth most common form of cancer and the most common form found in women.

Although breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in women in the United States, it is only the second most common cause of cancer death in women (after lung cancer). U.S. women have a one in eight lifetime chance of developing invasive breast cancer and an almost 3% chance of breast cancer causing their death. Due to our modern lifestyle the ‘experts’ claim and have also noted, a significant increase in the number of cases since the 1970s.

The breast is composed of identical tissues in males and females. Therefore breast cancer also occurs in males, though it is less common. Although men have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, this risk appears to be rising. There seems to be an increased incidence of breast cancer in men with prostate cancer.

The notable point about male breast cancer is that the prognosis is worse in men than in women and treatment of men with breast cancer is similar to that of the treatment given to older women. Because the male breast tissue is confined to the area directly behind the nipple, treatment for males has usually been a mastectomy.

On a more positive note, most breast cancer symptoms do not turn out to represent underlying breast cancer. These normally turn out to be benign diseases of the breast and only represent the more common symptoms similar to breast cancer itself. However, any appearance of new breast symptom should be taken very seriously by patients and doctors; because of the possibility of an underlying breast cancer that can develop at any age.

As with all types of cancer, the detection and treatment of breast cancer has a far greater chance of a positive outcome by detecting it earlier rather than later.

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