Historically, Breast Cancer was Thought to Have Been Diagnosed and Treated in Ancient Egypt.
It may be nearly impossible to document or to pinpoint the very first case of breast cancer that was diagnosed. However, we do know that an awareness of breast cancer and discussion of the breast as a point of disease dates as far back as the 1600 BC in documented Egyptian writings.
At that time, a description of what is now accepted to be breast cancer was recorded in a paper, called the Edwin Smith Papyrus. In these writings, the treatment was described as simply a cauterization of the breast on the spot where the tumor was palpable. It was believed at that time that there was no other effective treatment in use for these first recorded cases of breast cancer.
History of Seeking a Cure for Breast Cancer
The History of seeking a cure for Breast Cancer is long, and yet, the cure is still illusive. It is amazing that for something identified so long ago, we still have no solution. We have, however, come a long way in the treatment of breast cancer. Since the earliest recorded case of breast cancer, at least in written history much has been discovered. The path is red hot, and yet the cure for the pink ribbon disease evades us.
Few changes or innovations in the rudimentary burning treatment called cauterization, were considered until well into the 1700's. Within the years following discoveries of forms of anesthesia, more adventurous physicians delved deeper into surgical means. As surgery became more commonplace for other purposes, surgeons attempted to excise tumors wholesale and completed what, in essence, is now considered the first breast cancer surgeries.
Removing the First Breast Cancer Tumor & Attempting a Mastectomy
It wasn't untiil the late 1700's when a connection between breast cancer and the swelling of lymph nodes was considered pertinent. In fact, two surgeons, French surgeon Jean Louis Petit (1674-1750) and later the Scottish surgeon Benjamin Bell (1749-1806), were to remove a corresponding diseased lymph node along with it's cancerous tumor.
Later, this work was taken further into the first radical mastectomies ever preformed. The first one was attempted by William Stewart Halsted in 1882. What then became known as the Halsted radical mastectomy was perhaps a bit more invasive than was needed, as it almost always involved taking both breasts completely, instead of just the one that was affected. Radical mastectomies were the norm even through the 1970's.
Since the 1970's, many changes to the way we treat breast cancer have occurred. Much different from the cauterization treatments of the first cases of breast cancer, we now have many options for the woman to choose from with much better results. The inclusion of lumpectomy surgeries help preserve the breast, as well as the use of chemotherapy and radiation. These treatments are more targeted and specific as well as more thorough, and the after treatments, also much more effective. These days, breast cancer survival rates are well above what they were before.
Preventing Breast Cancer Through Awareness
However, the biggest contribution to the fight against breast cancer is the awareness programs that have been so aggressive and visible for many years now. The open discussion about this issue, instead of hiding it away as was done centuries ago, has helped millions of women understand the disease of breast cancer and the ways to identify it and address it before its too serious to treat.
Breast cancer is one of the most studied and discussed cancers out there today. Mothers talk to their daughters about it. We receive reminders to get our annual mammographies. We learn from health care providers and organizations how to do breast self exams. Doctors and medical personnel perform clinical exams and get full family histories to better gauge your risk factors. Business and community centers sponsor all types of breast cancer awareness events such as mobile mammogram vans and other diagnostic tools.
The awareness about breast cancer might be at its highest point ever, but we still have work to do in order to find the ultimate cure.