"Radical Surgery's Effect on the Modern Day Mastectomy" Essay

893 Words 4 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 …show more content…
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 continuous growth of fragments of the principal tumor." These words drive him to dive deeper into his work, and he evolves his mastectomy once again, but this time he begins slicing through the collarbones and removing the small cluster of lymph nodes that lie beneath it. He did not yet know that his efforts were futile and that by cutting deeper, he was…

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