80 million years ago
Dinosaur bone fossils from this period show possible evidence of containing cancerous cells.
Evidence of cancer found in Egyptian mummies from this period.
Egyptian papyruses describe treatments for cancer including cutting out with a knife or burning with red-hot irons. Stomach cancer was treated with boiled barley mixed with dates, cancer of the uterus by a concoction of fresh dates mixed with pig's brain introduced into the vagina.
Evidence of cancer found in mummies of pre-Columbian Incas of Peru.
Hippocrates, the Greek 'Father of Medicine', named a range of tumours, lumps and bumps as carcinos and carcinoma. It was thought cancerous tumours had roots spreading out like the legs of a crab. Cancer was thought to be caused by too much black bile in the body.
Like the Greeks, the Romans found that some tumours could be removed by surgery and cauterised (burnt), but no medicine seemed to work. They found that surgery sometimes increased the spread of the cancer, or that tumours sometimes grew again.
Little progress was made in understanding cancer. It was still believed to be caused by too much black bile. Surgery and cautery were used on smaller tumours. Caustic (burning) pastes, usually containing arsenic, were used for control of more extensive cancer. Phlebotomy (blood-letting), diet, herbal medicines, powder of crab and other symbolic charms were used.
Autopsies (examining bodies to find out the cause of death) were conducted more often and understanding of internal cancers began to improve.
The development of microscopes, and better understanding of cells and the blood and lymphatic systems were major steps in improving understanding of cancer.
Causes for some cancers suggested. For example, snuff was linked to cancer in the nose and soot to scrotal cancer in chimney sweeps.
Important discoveries in anaesthetics and control of infection improved surgical methods.
The radioactive substance, radium was discovered. It is now used to treat some types of cancer.
Hundreds of materials, both man-made and natural, were recognised as causes of cancer (carcinogens). Improvements made in diagnosing (identifying) diseases and the changes those diseases bring about in the body, due to advances in areas of science such as physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology.
Radiotherapy—use of radiation to kill cancer cells or stop them dividing—was developed as a treatment.
Chemotherapy—use of drugs to treat cancer—was tested.