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 scientific applied sciences and the promise of screening for malignant tumours. for a very long time, this affliction was once pointed out with the main dreaded elements of malignancies: lengthy invalidity and persistent discomfort, but in addition actual degradation, disgrace and social isolation. Cervical melanoma displayed in parallel the risks of being a girl.

In the 20 th century, strategies in the beginning built 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, therapy and prevention of alternative malignancies. within the past due twentieth century, cervical melanoma underwent one other very important switch. With the demonstrate of the function of chosen strands of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) within the genesis of this malignancy, it was once remodeled right into a sexually transmitted illness. This new knowing of cervical melanoma associated it extra firmly with way of life offerings, and therefore elevated the risk of stigmatisation of sufferers; however it opened the prospect for effective prevention of this malignancy via vaccination.

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Additional resources for A Woman’s Disease: The History of Cervical Cancer

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Until the middle of that century physicians were unable to differentiate tumours of the uterine cervix from those of the uterine body. When a reliable diagnosis of this malignancy was made only in advanced stages of the disease—that is, when the tumour had already spread into the abdominal cavity—it was very difficult to establish its starting point as the cervix or body of the uterus. The distinction between these two types of cancer of the womb was possible only in ‘early’ (that is, localized) cases, precisely those in which it was very difficult to make a firm diagnosis of a malignant tumour.

However, once doctors had learned how to recognize cancer cells under the microscope they began to apply this knowledge to the diagnosis of malignancies. Microscopic diagnosis was especially useful when doctors needed to decide promptly whether a patient with suspected cancer should undergo risky surgery. Two doctors from the gynaecological clinics of the University of Berlin, Carl Ruge (1846–1926) and Johann Veit (1852–1917), energetically promoted microscopic diagnosis of cancers of the womb.

In 1898 Austrian gynaecologist Ernst Wertheim (1864–1920) elaborated a somewhat different version of radical abdominal hysterectomy. His technique first became popular in Germanspeaking countries, and then was adopted by surgeons elsewhere. In the early twentieth century surgeons discussed the relative advantages of the two methods of extirpation of the uterus: vaginal hysterectomy (Schauta’s operation) and radical abdominal hysterectomy (Wertheim’s operation). The majority 41 a wom an’s dise ase of French gynaecologists, and some of those in English-speaking countries, were in favour of vaginal hysterectomy.

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