Cancer has been recognized from ancient times as an intractable disease process. Surgery, like all the other treatments available in the deep past, failed to cure the cancer once it had spread. It is true that Galen wrote of surgical cures for breast cancer, if the tumour could be completely removed at an early stage. However, this ideal was so rarely achievable that surgical intervention was often considered more harmful than no treatment at all, a viewpoint that ancient physicians extended to many other forms of treatment that, if not curative, might arguably slow the course. If there was any general agreement, it was that cure of cancer was not possible in most established cases, a general tenet that has held true to the present day.