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Download A Woman’s Disease: The History of Cervical Cancer by Ilana Lowy PDF

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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 desire of state-of-the-art scientific applied sciences and the promise of screening for malignant tumours. for a very long time, this sickness used to be pointed out with the main dreaded facets of malignancies: lengthy invalidity and protracted discomfort, but in addition actual degradation, disgrace and social isolation. Cervical melanoma displayed in parallel the risks of being a girl.

In the twentieth century, concepts first and foremost constructed to manage 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 different malignancies. within the overdue twentieth century, cervical melanoma underwent one other very important swap. With the show of the function of chosen strands of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) within the genesis of this malignancy, it was once reworked right into a sexually transmitted affliction. This new figuring out of cervical melanoma associated it extra firmly with way of life offerings, and hence elevated the risk of stigmatisation of sufferers; however it opened the chance for effective prevention of this malignancy via vaccination.

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In order to eliminate diseased tissues, physicians employed arsenical paste, hydrate of potassium, nitrate of silver, nitrate of mercury, nitrate of creosote, and potash. Such treatment aimed to cure a less-advanced cancer, and alleviate the symptoms of advanced cancer of the uterus. Physicians employed the speculum to apply corrosive substances directly to cervical lesions. Cauterization was extremely painful. It was nevertheless popular, because physicians believed that once the initial pain subsided a woman obtained relief from the distressing manifestations of her disease: uncontrollable blood loss and repulsive, smelly discharge.

6 Cervical cancer under the microscope Cancer of the womb was known in Antiquity, but the history of cervical cancer starts in the second half of the nineteenth century. 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.

Récamier’s instrument and its later variants, such as the socalled duckbill speculum developed by the US gynaecologist James Marion Sims (1813–1883) in 1845, greatly improved doctors’ capacity to examine the uterine cervix. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the main goal of such examination of the cervix was to detect venereal diseases in prostitutes. In 1810, new police rules in Paris declared that all the registered prostitutes—the only ones allowed to exercise their trade—had to undergo regular gynaecological examinations with a speculum.

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