Abstract

This paper follows the history of "morphological risk" of breast cancer. In the early twentieth century, surgeons and pathologists arrived at the conclusion that specific anatomical and cytological changes in the breast are related to a heightened risk of developing a malignancy in the future. This conclusion was directly related to a shift from macroscopic to microscopic diagnosis of malignancies, and to the integration of the frozen section into routine surgery for breast cancer. In the interwar era, conditions such as "chronic mastitis" and "cystic disease of the breast" were defined as precancerous, and women diagnosed with these conditions were advised to undergo mastectomy. In the post–World War II era, these entities were replaced by "carcinoma in situ." The recent development of tests for hereditary predisposition to breast cancer is a continuation of attempts to detect an "embodied risk" of cancer and to eliminate this risk by cutting it out.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3176
Print ISSN
0007-5140
Pages
pp. 241-266
Launched on MUSE
2007-03-15
Open Access
No
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