Now, don’t you worry your pretty little head about breast cancer

October 27, 2015 1:21 PM

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In an 1882 presentation to the New York Obstetrical Society, surgeon Theodore Gaillard Thomas defended the removal of benign breast tumors by invoking the emotional fragility of the weaker sex. “I have found that the mere presence of a tumor in the breast usually concentrates upon it the thoughts and attention of the patient, impairs her happiness and renders her apprehensive, nervous and often gloomy,” Thomas said.

That reasoning fit a time when hysteria was recognized as an emotional disorder specific to women, and when physicians delivered news of a cancer diagnosis to the husbands or fathers of female patients. Thankfully, doctors today tend to give female patients more credit. They even wake us up after bi...

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