The History of Cancer

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Cancer in the nineteenth century

The 19th century saw the birth of scientific oncology with use of the modern microscope in studying diseased tissues. Rudolf Virchow, often called the founder of cellular pathology, provided the scientific basis for the modern pathologic study of cancer. As Morgagni had linked autopsy findings seen with the unaided eye with the clinical course of illness, so Virchow correlated microscopic pathology to illness.

This method not only allowed a better understanding of the damage cancer had done, but also aided the development of cancer surgery. Body tissues removed by the surgeon could now be examined and a precise diagnosis could be made. The pathologist could also tell the surgeon whether the operation had completely removed the cancer.


Last Medical Review: 06/12/2014
Last Revised: 06/12/2014