A history of cancer usually includes the history of different treatments that finally evolved into the modern science of oncology, which is the name for the branch of medicine that is dedicated to the treatment of this dread disease.
The word cancer comes from the way that a malignant tumor looks. The veins get stretched and it reminds people of crab feet. Cancer is the Zodiac sign for the crab.
The Earliest Documentation Of Cancer
The earliest history of cancer known today comes from the writings of Hippocrates and the ancient Egyptians. There is actually documentation of attempts to cut off cancer cells by the Egyptian doctors over 3,500 years ago. The process consisted of cutting off visible tumors and cauterizing the wound with fire. However, documents do say that there was no real treatment to cure the disease. Perhaps this was done to provide comfort to the sufferer, but it must have been painful.
Hippocrates lived around 400 BC, and he described several different types of cancer. He described them with terms that include crab and crayfish. However, in his day, the Greeks did not believe in opening up the body, and this was true even for people who had already died Because of this, his descriptions only include tumors that were visible on the outside. His surviving drawings represent the appearance of these tumors on or just under the skin where they could be seen.
In those early days, treatment was still based upon the idea that the body had for fluid. These were two different kinds of bile, blood, and phlegm. Thus, the treatment consisted of laxatives, dietary changes, and blood letting.
Cancer Treatment In The 16th To 19 Century
It wasn’t until the 16th century that doctors began to dissect bodies. That way, they discovered internal cancers that could cause illness and death. These doctors had all sorts of theories about the causes of cancer. These were based upon the knowledge they had at the time, and some were surprisingly intuitive, but others were pretty outlandish.
One of the first real discoveries of the cause of cancer was made in 1775. A British surgeon realized that chimney sweeps tended to suffer from scrotum cancer more frequently than others. In the 18th century, the more widespread use of microscopes helped scientists and doctors get a better idea of the appearance of cancers in cells.
Still, they thought that cancer was caused by a type of poison that spread through the body. In a way, these early cancer doctors were right because some cancers are caused by exposure to carcinogens, as in the case of the chimney sweeps in England.
In the early years of cancer surgery, the results were very poor. However, this may have been because of poor surgical hygiene more than anything else. However, by the 19th century, surgeons began to understand how hygiene improved survival rates because it helped reduce the high risk of infections.
The 20th Century And Beyond
The American Cancer Society was founded in the early part of the 20th century by a group of doctors and business people. This body helped doctors and scientists pool their knowledge to make greater progress and dispel the myths about cancer treatment.