The History of Cancer
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month the NP Health channel through its sub-channel Cancer feature has a special section where all stories tagged 'breast cancer awareness' will be available.
With this in mind I thought it would be good to share not only straight news in the cancer feature channel but also pieces that inform the background to news stories.
Here's a piece that hopefully could bring everyone up to speed on some basic facts around cancer, what it is, some of the history etc. Visit the link to the piece to get the full article.
If anyone else has background or news stories around cancer and in particular during October around breast cancer just tag them 'cancer' and 'breast cancer awareness' and they will appear in the feature channel.
Oldest Descriptions of Cancer
Cancer has afflicted humans throughout recorded history. It is no surprise that from the dawn of history doctors have written about cancer. Some of the earliest evidence of cancer is found among fossilized bone tumors, human mummies in ancient Egypt, and ancient manuscripts. Bone remains of mummies have revealed growths suggestive of the bone cancer, osteosarcoma. In other cases, bony skull destruction as seen in cancer of the head and neck has been found.
Our oldest description of cancer (although the term cancer was not used) was discovered in Egypt and dates back to approximately 1600 B.C. The Edwin Smith Papyrus, or writing, describes 8 cases of tumors or ulcers of the breast that were treated by cauterization, with a tool called "the fire drill." The writing says about the disease, "There is no treatment."
Origin of the Word Cancer
The origin of the word cancer is credited to the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 B.C.), considered the "Father of Medicine." Hippocrates used the terms carcinos and carcinoma to describe non-ulcer forming and ulcer-forming tumors. In Greek these words refer to a crab, most likely applied to the disease because the finger-like spreading projections from a cancer called to mind the shape of a crab. Carcinoma is the most common type of cancer.
During the Renaissance, beginning in the 15th century, scientists in Italy developed a greater understanding of the human body. Scientists such as Galileo and Newton began to use the scientific method, which later began to be used to study disease. Autopsies, performed by Harvey (1628), allowed an understanding of the circulation of blood through the heart and body that had remained a mystery.
In 1761, Giovanni Morgagni of Padua was the first to do something considered routine today. He performed autopsies to relate the patient's illness to the pathologic findings after death. This laid the foundation for scientific oncology, the study of cancer.
The famous Scottish surgeon John Hunter (1728-1793) suggested that some cancers might be cured by surgery and described how the surgeon might decide which cancers to operate on. If the tumor had not invaded nearby tissue and was "moveable," he said, "There is no impropriety in removing it."
A century later the development of anesthesia allowed surgery to flourish and the classic cancer operations such as radical mastectomy were developed.
The 19th century saw the birth of scientific oncology with the discovery and use of the modern microscope. Rudolf Virchow, often called the founder of cellular pathology, provided the scientific basis for the modern pathologic study of cancer. As Morgagni had correlated the autopsy findings observed with the unaided eye with the clinical course of illness, so Virchow correlated the microscopic pathology.
This method not only allowed a better understanding of the damage cancer had done to a patient but also laid the foundation for the development of cancer surgery. Body tissues removed by the surgeon could now be examined and a precise diagnosis made. In addition, the pathologist could tell the surgeon whether the operation had completely removed the tumor.