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"Radical Surgery's Effect On The Modern Day Mastectomy"

1147 words - 5 pages

What is radical surgery's role in eradicating breast cancer? Radical surgery is the extirpation of an area of the body that is locally ridden with disease. Typically, it is an extremely risky surgery and was once thought to be the solution to every type of cancer, excluding brain cancer. Today, this type of surgery most often deals with various different types of local cancer. In the case of breast cancer, radical surgery is used to remove all cancerous cells from the breasts. The name primarily associated with this bold, medical advancement would be Dr. William Stewart Halsted. Although Halsted did not invent the concept of radical surgery, he did perfect it and bring it to its extreme. Dr. Halsted paved the way for today's breast cancer treatment, and modifications of his courageous surgeries are still performed today. Without his risky radical mastectomy, the world would be a lot farther behind in the hunt for a cure for breast cancer.
Breast cancer was and still is the leading cause of death in women in the United States , and Dr. Halsted's number one goal was to reduce reoccurrence. He believed that the most effective way to reach this goal was to uproot the cancerous cells in the breasts, thus giving it its name "radical" mastectomy. The original mastectomy involved only removing the cancerous tumor, known today as a lumpectomy. After the aggressive disease returned, Halsted decided to remove the breast entirely. Frustrated with his negative results, he begins a tour through Europe to learn from some of the biggest names in surgery during the late 1800's throughout the early 1900's. Halsted wanted to keep cancer from taking over the body yet again. During his time in Europe, he witnesses his fellow surgeon, Volkmann, remove the thin layer of muscle beneath the breast called the pectorals minor. After this proves to not be as effective as originally planned, Halsted decided to take matters into his own hands. Halsted takes the surgery even deeper, and he removes the pectoralis major, the muscle for controlling movement of the chest and the arm. While this surgery left the women physically and mentally scared, it proved effective in cases where the cancer had not metastasized beyond the muscular wall beneath Once he returned to his home in New York, Halsted develops his theory and signature radical mastectomy. This involves removing the entire breast, the levels I, II, and III axillary lymph nodes, and the muscular wall underneath the breast, leaving nothing but enough skin to close the incision. Although his radical mastectomies did significantly reduce recurrence of cancer in the breasts, most of his patients died shortly after surgery due to either the lack of a sterile surgical environment or the return of their cancer. He realizes the explanation for the recurrence in an English surgeon, Charles Moore's, words "Mammary cancer requires careful extirpation of the entire organ. Local recurrence of cancer after operations is due to the...

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