History-of-breast-cancer---Prof.-Aziz-Sumer-M.D. History of breast cancer - Prof. Aziz Sümer M.D.



In the history of humanity the most importance has been attributed to mother's milk. The blood of Christ, the Virgin Mary's tears and mother's milk has been accepted by history as a sacred. The breast was very important throughout history, the abundance of large breasts, have become a symbol of productivity and fertility. Statuette of Artemis with more than one breast reveals that the breast and milk is source of life.

Breast cancer has attracted the interest of surgeons throughout history. Cancer is derived from the Latin word crabs. Due to its spreading everywhere like the legs of a crab disease was named crab. Breast cancer is still continuing to be one of the most terrifying diseases.

The first known information about breast cancer was found in surgical papyrus of Smith from 2500-3000 years before Christ. First time the clinical findings of cancer in man was described, and as a result untreatable at that time disease was reported to be an irreversible. In a 1st century in Celsus De Medicinae, and in the 2nd century Galen suggested that there is no treatment except early stages of breast cancer. In fact, the importance of early diagnosis was underline by scientists 2,000 years ago, despite the limited resources in the hands.

Galenic system of medicine claimed that breast cancer is systemic disease, which occurs as a result of the accumulation of black bile. In the 18th century the though that breast cancer is not a systemic but local disease appeared and the first examples of surgical treatment have being done.

In the 19th century Moore from Middlesex Hospital began to performed excision (removal) of all breast and the mass from the armpit. In 1894 Halsted and Meyer are published the results of the first cases they done. After that the Halsted period had began. Halsted claimed that breast cancer is local and appears in one place only. Resection of all breast tissues, adjacent muscles, and the armpit had been considered to be the only treatment. In that way radical mastectomy technique was born.


Again the Middlesex Hospital Patey and Dyson in 1948 emphasized that it is not possible to treat patients even with very experienced surgery without finding chemotherapeutic agent to destroy cancer cells. With this idea they claimed that instead of a surgical method such as radical mastectomy, forming a heavy and serious damage, better will be implementation of the modified radical mastectomy procedure. After the 1970s Fisher, as a result of his studies prove that radical modified mastectomy effects more on survival than radical mastectomy and radical modified mastectomy became the gold surgical standard. Fisher's work proved again that breast cancer is systemic not a local disease and started a new era in breast cancer treatment.


After the 1980s, Umberto Veronesi has adopted the philosophy of minimally invasive approaches in breast cancer. His work also supported Fisher's theory of breast cancer as systemic diseases. In this way with time treatment techniques from surgeries immediately eliminating breast tissue has evaluated to preventive methods, breast conserving techniques. The organ as precious as Jesus blood and the Virgin Mary's tears has started to be protected. Medicine, with developing pharmacological agents, radiotherapy methods, entered the period of breast-conserving, surgery, which is minimally invasive, but ensure maximal gains.