A Woman’s Disease: The History of Cervical Cancer by Ilana Lowy

By Ilana Lowy

Cervical melanoma is an emotive sickness with a number of connotations. It has stood for the horror of melanoma, the curse of femininity, the wish of state of the art clinical applied sciences and the promise of screening for malignant tumours. for a very long time, this ailment was once pointed out with the main dreaded facets of malignancies: lengthy invalidity and persistent ache, but additionally actual degradation, disgrace and social isolation. Cervical melanoma displayed in parallel the hazards of being a lady.

In the 20 th century, options at the start constructed to regulate cervical melanoma - radiotherapy and radium remedy, exfoliate cytology (Pap smear), homogenisation of the 'staging' of tumours, mass campaigns for an early detection of precancerous lesions of the cervix - set criteria for prognosis, remedy and prevention of alternative malignancies. within the past due twentieth century, cervical melanoma underwent one other vital swap. With the exhibit of the position of chosen strands of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) within the genesis of this malignancy, it was once reworked right into a sexually transmitted disorder. This new knowing of cervical melanoma associated it extra firmly with way of life offerings, and therefore elevated the chance of stigmatisation of sufferers; nevertheless it opened the prospect for effective prevention of this malignancy via vaccination.

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Récamier’s instrument and its later variants, such as the socalled duckbill speculum developed by the US gynaecologist James Marion Sims (1813–1883) in 1845, greatly improved doctors’ capacity to examine the uterine cervix. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the main goal of such examination of the cervix was to detect venereal diseases in prostitutes. In 1810, new police rules in Paris declared that all the registered prostitutes—the only ones allowed to exercise their trade—had to undergo regular gynaecological examinations with a speculum.

They became persuaded that women with localized tumours were the best candidates for radical surgery, because such surgery offered them a real chance of a cure. 5 Vaginal versus abdominal operation In the 1880s a US surgeon from Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, William Stewart Halsted (1852–1922), developed a new treatment for cancer of the breast: radical mastectomy. This mutilating surgery, which included the excision of the breast, regional lymph nodes, and part of the chest’s muscles, became rapidly the standard operation for breast cancer.

Nevertheless, when a women died with typical symptoms of ‘cancer of the womb’—and only in that case—is it reasonable to assume that she had indeed suffered from a malignant tumour. Doctors and malignant tumours of the womb From antiquity onwards, doctors were interested in women’s reproductive organs. Women were valorized through their capacity to produce healthy children, especially male heirs, and nearly all their health problems were related to their reproductive organs, above all the uterus.

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