Orange Coast Radiation Oncology Center
History of Cancer Treatments

At Orange County CyberKnife, our mission is to help patients beat cancer through the world-class CyberKnife radiation therapy system. CyberKnife is one of the most advanced cancer treatments on the market today, representing the pinnacle of decades of research and work fighting cancer. But what came before it? At our cancer center, we believe that patient education is vital in the fight against cancer, so we’d like to take this opportunity to dive into the history of cancer treatments.

Cancer Treatments Through the Years

Humans have known about cancer for quite a long time. Hippocrates, who lived in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE, knew of the disease, as did the important Greek doctor Galen, who lived in the 2nd century CE. Both Hippocrates and Galen believed that once cancer was diagnosed, it could not be cured, although Galen thought that breast cancer could sometimes be cured if the entire tumor was removed early on. 

However, for the vast majority of the history of medicine, cancer treatment progressed very little. It wasn’t until the discovery and development of anesthetic, in 1846, that cancer treatment truly began to take off, as this was also what allowed surgery to fully develop as a medical treatment. In the late 1800s, William Stewart Halsted developed the radical mastectomy as a treatment for breast cancer, which was a major step forward in the understanding of how to treat cancer. 

However, treatment itself isn’t the only important part of managing cancer: diagnosis is just as vital. And up until late in the 20th century, diagnosing cancer often required exploratory surgery, which was a highly invasive procedure needed to take tissue samples to confirm the presence of cancer. The advancement of medical imaging tests like CT scans and MRIs has greatly improved the ability of cancer doctors to diagnose the condition, allowing diagnosis without invasive procedures. 

The end of the 20th century also saw huge progress in radiation treatments. Radiation has been used as a cancer treatment since the beginning of the 20th century, but scientists’ understanding of the full effects of radiation developed greatly in the latter half. While many forms of radiation treatment have been developed, one of the most powerful is stereotactic radiosurgery, which involves using an accelerator or other radiation source to deliver high doses of radiation to a very small, precisely-targeted tissue region. Stereotactic radiosurgery is the technique that eventually led to the development of CyberKnife, which is one of the most advanced and most effective cancer treatments in the world.

Contact Your Orange County, CA Cancer Treatment Center

Cancer treatment has made enormous progress in the past hundred years, and now, we’re able to treat many forms of cancer effectively without the need for invasive surgery. And if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer and you’re interested in learning how radiation therapy can help you recover, we’d love to help. Contact us today to learn more about our cutting-edge cancer treatment center and schedule your consultation for treatment. We can’t wait to hear from you!