Cancer has existed since the beginning of the human experience. It is defined as abnormal cell growth that can spread throughout the body. There are many factors that increase the risk of cancer like tobacco use, obesity, and even poor diet. It took many years of research and experimentation to be able to develop treatments that are currently used. 


The First Cases

The earliest cases of cancer date back to early ancient Egypt due to cancerous bone tumors found in mummies. There has also been recorded information about cancer in Egyptian times. The recorded data is called the Edwin Smith Papyrus and is part of an old Egyptian text regarding trauma surgery with procedures that involved cauterization.

The word cancer was created by the “Father of Medicine”, Hippocrates. He used the term carcinoma to describe tumors. Carcinoma refers to a crab because cancer cells spread in thread-like projections that resemble crab’s legs.


Creation of Medicine

The most common practice for cancer removal was surgery. This, of course, did not always guarantee that cancer was fully removed. Currently, treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy are all now 19th-century advancements in treating cancer.

The treatment of cancer by radiation stems back to the invention of the x-ray. German physicists, Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen created the x-ray in 1896 which allowed the identification of cancerous tumors. Then three years after the invention of the x-ray lead to the creation of radiation as a cancer treatment.

In World War II, certain soldiers were exposed to mustard gas during battle. While studying mustard gas and chemicals relating to it, they discovered that nitrogen mustard was effective in treating cancer in the lymph nodes. Not long after the nitrogen mustard discovery, vitamin folic acid showed results of remission in young children with acute leukemia. This discovery then sparked the model for similar treatments in killing cancer cells such as chemotherapy.


Where it is Today

Multiple different treatments of cancer stem from these moments in history. New ideas such as nanovaccines are beginning to break through in slowing cell growth. From 2004 to 2013 alone, the overall death rate of cancer in the United States fell by 13%. Cancer still remains to be a major issue in society but it takes small steps to advance in medicine and health with a widespread and common disease like cancer.