, Volume 111, Issue 1, pp 11-13
Date: 27 Sep 2007

Old masters as clinical photographers: multifocal breast cancer diagnosed 400 years ago

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Abstract

It is common belief among physicians the idea that breast cancer was not diagnosed centuries ago. Nevertheless, there are reports suggesting that old masters and even common people knew this dramatic disease. In the 16th and 17th centuries, famous artists painted things exactly as they saw them. This allows the detection of breast tumours, as have been previously published. We have discovered a new case of breast cancer in an engraving after Titian’s painting. The woman in the painting shows two tumour masses in her right breast, with skin and nipple retraction to the homo lateral axila, suggesting a multifocal breast cancer. Other diagnostic options, such as breast tuberculosis or Mondor’s disease, have to be established. The findings suggest that this is the first imaging report of a multifocal breast cancer. Old masters acted, in fact, as clinical photographers.