The road to breast cancer awareness has been a long one! Of course, science has come far since the illness’s initial discovery. There’s a bit of history to making breast cancer a curable disease.
The illness’s initial discovery came between 3000 and 2500 BCE. Father of Western medicine, Hippocrates, and fellow practitioner Galen referred to cancer as a humoral disease caused by black bile. Medical intervention didn’t begin until early AD as doctors believed the illness affected the whole body. Eventually, therapies and medications became routine during the Italian Renaissance. During the Middle Ages, practitioners used spiritual rituals to tackle the disease.
After theories reigned for centuries, options changed as notable French physician Henri Le Dran suggested in 1757 that surgical removal of the tumor was a probable treatment for breast cancer. Claude-Nicolas Le Cat affirmed LeDran’s suggestion by arguing surgical intervention was the only treatment for this cancer. His words led to the first mastectomy performed in 1882. This technique remained the standard until the current-day procedure started in 1932. By the late 20th century, major scientific breakthroughs led to the discovery of breast cancer genes — HER2 was discovered in 1985 by medical researcher Dennis Slamon, M.D. and his team. This discovery was followed by geneticist Dr. Mary-Claire King finding BRCA 1 and 2 in 1995.
The American Cancer Society and Imperial Chemical Pharma Division sponsored Breast Cancer Awareness Month during the same period. Breast cancer survivor and former First Lady Betty Ford helped kick off the special observance. The public became fully aware of the month in 1992 when Estee Lauder and the NFL started the pink ribbon tradition.
New tests and less invasive and toxic techniques have combated the illness in the 21st century. There are still new breast cancer treatments and scientific breakthroughs. The disease remains one of the leading causes of death among women.