The earliest written description of cancer dates to around 3000 B.C. when tumors of the breast were described in an ancient Egyptian surgical textbook. The tumors were removed using a tool known as a fire drill, according to the American Cancer Society.
The word "cancer" did not come into use until much later. Around 460 to 370 B.C., the Greek physician Hippocrates used the terms carcinos and carcinoma to describe tumors. Both words refer to crabs and were likely used by Hippocrates to describe cancer because of the finger-like projections that spread from cancer that cause tumors to look somewhat like crabs. These Greek words were translated to "cancer," which is Latin for "crab," around 28 to 50 B.C., according to the ACS.