Irradiation in the Treatment of Cancer of the Breast

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There are a few ancient writings which discuss medical subjects including cancer of the breast, the earliest dating back to about 2000 years before Christ. After printing processes were developed, considerably more was written about methods of treatment and it is apparent that cancer of the breast has been treated by caustics, cautery, and excision through many centuries. When Halsted wrote his classical report and described his radical operation he reviewed the literature prior to 1897 and came to the conclusion that up to that time no woman with cancer of the breast had been cured. Following his report and that of Willy Meyer, all other methods of treatment were discarded and radical operations were generally employed.

These radical operations have become quite standardized by skilled and experienced surgeons. In them, the mammary gland, fascia, muscles, and axillary contents are removed "en masse." These are the anatomical limits of the most radical operative procedure recognized as justifiable, but cancer of the breast unfortunately is not always confined within these limitations. It extends beyond the anatomical boundaries of the most radical surgical procedure in a majority of cases as is evidenced by the fact that the general average of surgical curability of cancer of the breast, on the basis of the five year survival rate, is approximately thirty per cent. This average was compiled from reports which eminent surgeons have published since 1900. This means that in seventy per cent of the cases the disease had extended beyond the possibility of. . .



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