Breast Cancer’s History



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, 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.


Surgeons interest has been attracted by breast cancer throughout history. Cancer is derived from the Latin word crabs. Due to its feature to spread 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 information about breast cancer was found in surgical papyrus of Smith from 2500-3000 years before Christ. It was first clinical description of cancer in human, and as a result was reported to be untreatable. 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. Despite the limited resources 2,000 years ago the importance of early diagnosis was underline by scientists.


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 performe excision (removal) of all breast and the mass from the armpit. In 1894 Halsted and Meyer 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. Instead of a surgical method such as radical mastectomy, forming a heavy and serious damage they recommended implementation of the modified radical mastectomy procedure. After the 1970s Fisher’s studies prove that life expectancy after radical modified mastectomy is higher than after radical mastectomy and radical modified mastectomy became the gold surgical standard. Fisher's work proved also that breast cancer is systemic not a local disease and began a new stage in breast cancer treatment.


After the 1980s, Umberto Veronesi initiated 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 from techniques 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 protect. Medicine, with developing pharmacological agents, radiotherapy methods, entered the period of breast-conserving surgery, which is minimally invasive, but ensure maximal gains.