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Arch Hellen Med, 23(3), May-June 2006, 260-278


History of mastectomy

1251 Air Force General Hospital, Athens,
2"Onassis" Cardiac Surgery Center, Athens,
3University of Ioannina, School of Medicine, Ioannina, Greece

Incidents of breast cancer have been documented back to the early Egyptians. Hippocrates was the first who used the term of cancer "karkinos" or "karkinoma" of the nose, the uterus, the breasts and the neck. He believed that only ulcerated cancer should be treated by operation, possibly as attempted palliation. "It is better to give no treatment in cases of hidden cancer; treatment causes speed death, but to omit treatment is to prolong life". In "De Medicina" of the Roman Aulus Cornelius Celsus (1st century AD) there is a clinical description of cancer. He claimed that when the whole breast is hardened and indurated tumor is fixed to the thorax the surgeon should abstain from operating. Archigenes Apameus (98-115 AD), an important and famous Greek physician working in Rome, agreed with Hippocrates. Leonides, a Greek physician of the first century AD, was the first who described an operation removing a breast tumor. He also applied cauterization as a method of treatment. Leonides adapted the extension of the operation to the clinical stage. Galenos (131-201 AD) was said to have been successful more than once, only in early cases of breast cancer, and suggested conservative treatment. Paulus Aegineta (625-690 AD) said that if, however, the tumor had grown into a substantial mass, only surgery could offer any hope of a cure. These theories passed into Western Medicine by way of the Arabs, Abulcasis and Rhazes and by Paulus' writings which were the official surgery textbooks in the University of Paris, Sorbonne until the beginning of 19th century. The evolution and methods of treatment of breast cancer from that time until now are reviewed.

Key words: Antiquity, Art, Āreast cancer, History, Mastectomy.

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