Breastcancersurvivor’s Weblog

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History of Mastectomies

Breast cancer is the great terror known to every culture in every age, it has been responsible for the deaths of over 25 million women throughout history.
William Stewart Halsted September 23 1852 – September 7 1922
William Stewart Halsted pioneered the mastectomy in 1882. His procedure, which became known as the Halsted Radical Mastectomy, was performed regularly into the 1970s
Radical mastectomy is a surgical procedure in which the breast, underlying chest muscle (including pectoralis major and pectoralis minor and lymph nodes of the axilla are removed as a treatment for breast cancer
It was developed and first performed by William Stewart Halsted in 1882. From about 1895 to the mid-1970s about 90% of the women being treated for breast cancer in the US underwent the radical mastectomy This is a very morbid surgery and is not performed except in extreme cases.
So it appears that Billy Halsted got the glory?
An Egyptian physician writing 3,500 years ago concluded that there was no treatment for the disease. Later surgeons recommended excising the tumour or, in extreme cases, the entire breast. This was the treatment advocated by the court physician to sixth-century Byzantine empress Theodora, the wife of Justinian, though she chose to die in pain rather than lose her breast..
So it apears that it wasn’t the “Americans” who were the first to perform this operation nor would he have been the first to develop it. However he was a pioneer in medicine and did bring about safer operations.

April 27, 2008 - Posted by | Mastectomies, Uncategorized


  1. […] Continue Reading […]

    Pingback by Medicine » Blog Archive » History of Mastectomies | April 27, 2008 | Reply

  2. my grandma’s friend had breast cancer in the 40’s and she showed my grandma the scars…it was like she was hollowed out on both sides of her chest.

    Comment by mandy_Reeves | April 28, 2010 | Reply

  3. right. halsted shmalsted. he may have perfected a technique but he is in no way a pioneer. throughout history, the understanding of what that lump may mean has been handed down from generation to generation & women have undergone mastectomies before surgery was sterile or anesthesia was really available.

    Comment by heather | May 11, 2012 | Reply

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