n South African Medical Journal - History of medicine : breast cancer in antiquity : forum

Volume 101, Issue 8
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



Breast cancer is one of the first recognisable cancers described in history, and we trace its recognition and treatment through antiquity. Galen saw cancer of the breast as the most common cancer of his time (and is still the most common cancer among South African women). Hippocrates in the 5th century BC possibly first described it. The recorded a single case but mentioned no specific treatment. It was noticed that the cancer ( in Latin) could be preceded by an occult cancer (). Standard dogma through antiquity for close on a millennium was that all tumours resulted from an inflammatory process caused by an abnormal flux of tumours, in which an excess of black bile was crucial.

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error