American College of Surgeons

Ladies’ Home Journal Was Fighting Cancer in 1913

October 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm , by

Does going to a hospital scare you? Then just imagine what having surgery was like a century ago! It was a different world, with crude tools, scant blood supplies and high rates of infection. The year 1913 was key to a lot of changes in the practice of surgery, though, as it marked the founding of the organization now known as the American College of Surgeons. The ACS has helped improve the quality of care ever since, and today it has 78,000 members.

To celebrate its centennial, the ACS just debuted a cool interactive timeline of milestones in surgery. (A book is coming out, too.) And guess what? Ladies’ Home Journal played a key early role. In 1913, the ACS began an effort to inform the public about the importance of early detection and treatment of cancer, and its chairman collaborated with LHJ on a major article (above). Called “What Can We Do About Cancer? The Most Vital and Insistent Question in the Medical World,” it was a thorough, detailed and candid piece that busted many of the myths of the time and was written to “educate the people to save themselves.” (Click here to see the year 1913 on the timeline. The LHJ story is the 5th milestone in that year.)

Here’s a bit from the article’s section on breast cancer: “More generally than any other organ, the breast is the point of attack in women. Here the outlook is most encouraging…. As soon as the lump is noticed, unless its non-tumorous nature is definitely determined, the proper procedure is to have a competent surgeon (preferably at a well-equipped hospital) remove it—a safe and simple operation. Then, while the patient is still under the anesthetic, a microscopical examination is made, which should determine pretty accurately whether the growth is carcinoma. If so, the whole breast must be removed at once. It is the only chance, and a very favorable one.”

The article also tells how vital it is not to delay as soon as a lump is found. Believe me, women were not getting that kind of clear info in those days. The ACS timeline says that the LHJ article “helped to revolutionize the public’s understanding of the disease.”

We’re proud of our long history of working closely with physicians and top medical organizations to provide cutting-edge health information that is accurate, authoritative—and even lifesaving. (Compelling and award-winning doesn’t hurt, either!) Millions of women still count on Ladies’ Home Journal to help them make their most important health decisions, and we take that responsibility very seriously.