The Evolution of Cancer Treatments – A History of Cancer

Evolution Of cancer treatmentsThe Evolution of Cancer Treatments

Cancer is a disease that has unfortunately plagued all of mankind throughout the centuries. The evolution of cancer treatments has come a long way. To this day scientists still don’t have a cure.  They do continue to strive for one however, or at least for  better treatment options. Unlike other diseases, cancer hinges on the malfunction of fundamental cell replication processes.  This causes a change in the genetic makeup of cells themselves, leading to uncontrolled growth of tumors.

Cancer Surgery Use of Surgery As Treatment For Cancer

Back in ancient times, surgeons would try to cut out the tumor. They often found, however, that the disease still returned after the surgery. A 2nd-century Greek doctor named Galen saw cancer as an incurable disease. Whilst he was not incorrect in his assumption, it paved the way to a view of cancer management rather than seeking to cure the root of the disease. The view that cancer could not be cured prevailed right into the 19th and 20th Centuries.  It remained this way until cancer research began to flourish again.

The 19th Century marked a turning point in cancer treatment as anesthesia became more widely used. During this time cancer operations, again, seemed to remove whole tumors and the lymph nodes in the tumorous region too. Radical mastectomies were first developed by William Stewart Halsted in the late 19th Century. He believed that cancer did not spread through the blood but it radiated from a central region from which the tumor had first appeared. Therefore, removing the breast, chest muscle and lymph nodes was considered an adequate enough treatment for breast cancer. He believed that if cancer presented itself again, it was for an unrelated cause.

Non-surgical Cancer Treatments

Stephen Paget was a surgeon from England who did not agree with Halsted’s work.  He found that cancer could spread through the bloodstream but it just couldn’t grow in all the organs. This idea has been confirmed in the modern-day through extensive modern cellular and molecular biology methods. Paget’s work was fundamental for moving away from highly invasive treatments and moving towards a focus on the metastasis of cancer and surgery of cells that allowed cancer to spread through the body.

Over time doctors have focused on treatments that remove less of the normal tissue from the body. Instead of invasive exploratory surgeries, doctors in the 1970s have been able to take advantage of ultrasound, CT, MRI, and PET scans to look for abnormalities.  Additionally, modern day cameras can be used to look inside the body further.

Radiation and Chemotherapy Treatments for cancer

Radiation Treatment

Radiation & Chemotherapy To Treat Cancer

These days radiation therapy is routine in cancer treatments. It was discovered by Emil Grubbe in 1896 but has a limited reach due to the possibility of causing further damage in the body. Additionally, chemotherapy now takes advantage of anti-cancer drugs for the treatment. It first appeared in the 1940s. Strangely, the first chemotherapy was developed from nitrogen mustard, a poison gas used in the trenches that destroyed soldiers’ lymphocytes. These days a combination of drugs is essential for chemotherapy of modern cancers.

Chemotherapy is a fantastic treatment as it can destroy cancer cells wherever they are in the body – a far cry from ancient localized surgery. In conclusion, modern treatments can be used in conjunction with one another to produce the best results. Once the patient has been diagnosed with a three-way attack on cancer cells using chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery has been found to be the most effective.

History of Cancer

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