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Who Discovered Breast Cancer?

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Breast cancer is one of the earliest forms of cancer discovered by human, mostly because of its visibility and other prominent symptoms. It had often been mentioned in various ancient documents. For example, there were records of breast cancer in the Edwin Smith’s Surgical Papyrus, a medical texts on surgical trauma by ancient Egyptians from 1500 BCE.

Edwin Smith's Surgical PapyrusEdwin Smith’s Surgical Papyrus is unique because it is the only papyrus of it’s time that didn’t talk about magic and was more rational with a scientific approach to describe illnesses. However, we don’t know for sure who wrote it and it is still being debated.

The first recorded case of breast cancer

According to many historians, this was the first record of breast cancer in human history. It recorded 8 cases of tumors in the breasts and concluded that it had no treatment. For centuries, physicians recorded such cases of breast cancer with similar conclusion. The cause for the cancer was also inconclusive. As the general practice for diagnosis was largely based on humoralism, the disease was believed to be caused by fundamental fluid imbalances. There were also some religious links to the diagnosis as well.

Modern analysis of breast cancer

In the 18th century, however, different analysis was applied to discover the cause of breast cancer including physical injuries to the breast, too much sexual activity, lack of sexual activity, curdled breast milk and different forms of lymphatic blockages. In the 18th century, John Rodman, a surgeon from Scotland suggested that the cancer was caused by fear and anxiety. He noted this when he observed the daughters often inherit the disease from their mothers and were often anxious about it.

Jean Louis Petit and Benjamin Bell

Because surgery was not the best option back in those days, the breast cancer were often treated with medicines and other means but not with surgery, though some examples of mastectomy for breast cancer can be found from ancient times. The connection between breast cancer and lymph nodes was discovered around the 17th century. Jean Louis Petit and Benjamin Bell were the first physician to remove lymph nodes and breast tissue to treat breast cancer.

More on breast cancer: Facts about breast cancer.