Breast Reconstruction Has Come a Long Way
by Constance M. Chen, MD, MPH, March 5 2018
The ancient Egyptians described breast cancer in papyrus writings as far back as 1600 B.C. Over the following centuries, many causes were suggested – from imbalances of bodily fluids to compression from tight clothing – and treatments ranged from cauterization to opium to arsenic. It was not until the 18th century that breast cancer came to be understood as a localized disease whose spread could be contained by isolating and removing the affected cells, giving rise to what we know today as mastectomy. The American surgeon William Halsted pioneered the radical mastectomy in the late 1800s, removing not just the breast tissue and adjacent lymph nodes but the underlying chest muscles down to the ribs as well in an aggressive attempt to control the spread of the disease.
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