Treatment for patients with breast cancer has come a long way since the first written descriptions of breast tumors more than 1,800 years ago. Humanity waited until the 17th century, when we began to understand the role of our circulatory system, to find a connection between breast cancer and the lymph nodes.
This essential finding led to procedures to remove lymph nodes, breast tissue and underlying chest muscles (a radical mastectomy) — the first evidence-based treatment option to treat breast tumors. William Halsted, M.D. performed the first radical mastectomy in 1882.