, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 665-667,
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Date: 05 Jan 2010

Ancient Greek and Greco–Roman Methods in Modern Surgical Treatment of Cancer

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Cancer appears in medical history as early as 1600 BC in the Edwin Smith papyrus, where the oldest description of the illness exists. However, the origin of the word “cancer” is credited to the Hippocratic physicians, who used the terms karkinos and karkinoma in order to describe tumors. Karkinos was used for any nonhealing swelling or ulcerous formation, even hemorrhoids, whereas karkinoma was reserved for nonhealing “cancer.”1 The physicians of antiquity generally used remedies and plasters for local treatment of tumors, as well as cauterization, which was used even by the Hippocratic physicians for treatment of cancer of the pharynx. Nonetheless, in this Editorial, an attempt is made to describe ancient surgical methods that include excision of the tumor and to correlate them with modern medical practice, providing possible explanations for the surgical choices made by ancient authors. Such references were traced in the texts of the Hippocratic physicians, of Archigenes of Apamea, o