Published:December 27, 2016 6:45 pm
Doctors in the UK have confirmed a diagnosis made more than 200 years ago by one of the medicine’s most influential surgeons in a patient with a “tumour as hard as bone”. Doctors at Royal Marsden Hospital analysed patient samples and case notes, which were preserved at the museum named after the surgeon John Hunter in London. The team believes that Hunter’s centuries-old samples may give clues as to how cancer is changing over time.
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“It started out as a bit of fun exploration, but we were amazed by John Hunter’s insight,” said Dr Christina Messiou. Hunter’s huge medical collection is housed at the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. It includes his colourful notes describing a man who arrived at St George’s Hospital, in 1786, with a hard swelling on his lower thigh.
“It appeared to be a thickening of the bone, it was increasing very rapidly… On examining the diseased part, it was found to consist of a substance surrounding the lower part of the thigh bone, of the tumour kind, which seemed to originate from the bone itself,” the note read.
Hunter amputated the man’s leg and he recovered briefly for four weeks, ‘BBC News’ reported. The patient died seven weeks after the operation and an autopsy discovered bony tumours had spread to his lungs, the lining of the heart and on the ribs.
“I think his diagnosis is really impressive and in fact his management of the patient followed similar principles to what we would have done in the modern day,” said Messiou.