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Surgical Reminiscence
March 2001

Some Thoughts on Breast Cancer

Arch Surg. 2001;136(3):357-358. doi:10.1001/archsurg.136.3.357

WHEN I was a surgical resident in the early 1950s, I knew exactly what to do for a patient with primary operable breast cancer. She needed a classical Halsted radical mastectomy with meticulous dissection of the entire axillary contents.

Therefore, I was surprised to read an article1 by 2 British statisticians in the journal Surgery, Gynecology and Obstetrics. Drs Park and Lees discussed the results of breast cancer operations at great length. Indicative of the many differences in medicine between 1951 and 2000, their paper was 33 pages long. They finished this lengthy review with the conclusion that surgical intervention did little to alter the natural history of the disease.