In 2018, almost 2 million new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed.
On the occasion of Pink October, let us focus on the most commonly occurring cancer in women and the second most common cancer overall.
Breast cancer is a pathology refering to the uncontrolled proliferation of the mammary gland cells. It exists multiple types of breast cancer that evolve differently, thus are not treated the same way.
The first signs of tumor observation in the chest area were found in the Edwin Smith Papyrus (oldest kwown surgical treatise) which goes back to 3 000 B.C.
Treatments over time
During Antiquity, the preferred treatment was amputation, achieved without anaesthesia and covering the entire breast, it often resulted in severe bleeding, sometimes lethal. As an alternative for amputation, plastering with raw meat was used to "feed" the cancer so it could leave its host. In the Middle Age, medical progress was entwined with the emerging religious beliefs an although the Christians thought of surgery as "barbaric" and kept to faith healing, the Muslims based their medicine on Greeks texts wich saved a lot of knowledge.
It is during the Renaissance that a new emergence of surgery was observed and it is from the 19th century that the first disinfectants and sterile gloves were used and that general anaesthesia was developed! The first mastectomy (removal of the breast) was performed in 1894, this is the operation that was performed in case of breast cancer until the beginning of the 20th century. As more was learned about the functioning of the disease and as radiotherapy and chemotherapy developed, this practice was largely limited. Since then, the treatments, although heavy, have been less destructive.
Breast cancer, today
Today, although the number of cases has increased, the mortality rate is constantly decreasing, thanks to advances in treatment (surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, etc.) but also in diagnosis, which allows early management and thus limits the consequences associated with the disease.
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