Surgical treatment of head and neck cancers in the ancient world

J Laryngol Otol. 2015 Jun;129(6):535-9. doi: 10.1017/S0022215115001218. Epub 2015 May 25.


Objective: This paper attempts to chart the history of head and neck cancers and their surgical treatment, starting from ancient Egypt and concluding with Galen.

Conclusion: The ancient Egyptians appear to have treated head and neck cancers with local applications. The ancient Greek corpus contains a reference to treating pharyngeal carcinoma with cautery, but the description is too vague to establish the diagnosis conclusively. The ancient Romans moved away from surgical treatments, with Galen establishing a prejudice against surgery that would last through the Middle Ages.

Keywords: Ancient; Head And Neck Neoplasms; History.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / history*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / surgery
  • Egypt, Ancient
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / history*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Otolaryngology / history*
  • Otorhinolaryngologic Surgical Procedures / history*
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck