In 1901, physician William Henry Walling published the article, Some of the Uses of Electricity in Gynecology, in the January issue of the American Gynecological and Obstetrical Journal. Walling was a practicing gynecologist who studied electro-therapeutics, or the use of electricity in medicine for the treatment of disease, which was an emerging topic during the late 1800s. Walling stated that proper administration of electrical current to a woman’s vagina, uterus, bladder, or rectum could be therapeutic for gynecological diseases. He provides scientific explanations for some of his claims, but not for all. The article provides readers of the twenty-first century with context and historical examples of electrotherapy in women’s health, of what physicians understood about female reproductive anatomy, and of the standard of care in gynecology during the turn of the twentieth century.
This thesis answers the following question: How does the history of cervical cancer show that prevention helps reduce rates of cancer-related deaths among women? By studying the history of cervical cancer, people can understand how a cancer that was once one of the top killers of women in the US has declined to become one of the lowest through the establishment of and effective communication of early prevention and diagnostics, both among the general public and within the medical community itself. This thesis is organized based on key episodes which were pertinent to the history of cervical cancer, primarily within the United States and Europe.
Dysmenorrhea refers to painful menstrual bleeding and often includes symptoms such as cramps in the lower abdominal region, pain radiating down to the thighs, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and headaches. There are two types of dysmenorrhea, called primary and secondary dysmenorrhea, which develop in different ways. In cases of primary dysmenorrhea, people experience painful cramps before and during most of their menstrual cycles, which does not happen as a result of a different underlying condition and is mostly due to hormone imbalances. On the other hand, secondary dysmenorrhea is a symptom of an underlying condition that cause problems with the reproductive organs such as endometriosis. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, researchers have reported that dysmenorrhea impacts up to fifty to ninety percent of women, remaining one of the most common reasons why women miss days of school and work as of 2021, and contributing to decreased quality of life.
Horatio Robinson Storer was a surgeon and anti-abortion activist in the 1800s who worked in the field of women’s reproductive health and led the Physicians’ Crusade Against Abortion in the US. Historians credit Storer as being one of the first physicians to distinguish gynecology, the study of diseases affecting women and their reproductive health, as a separate subject from obstetrics, the study of pregnancy and childbirth. Storer was one of the first physicians to successfully perform a Caesarian section, or the removal of the fetus through a surgical incision, followed by the removal of the woman’s uterus, a procedure which would later be known as Porro’s operation. Storer was also an anti-abortion activist who believed that public attitudes toward abortion were too relaxed and that the laws did not effectively punish what he deemed to be the criminal act of abortion. Historians credit Storer with leading the Physicians’ Crusade Against Abortion, which they consider largely responsible for the increase in laws criminalizing abortion in the late 1800s.
Vincenz Czerny was a surgeon in the nineteenth century who specialized in cancer and women’s surgical care. Czerny performed one of the first breast augmentations using a reconstruction method to correct asymmetry and disfigurement of a woman’s breasts. Additionally, Czerny improved the safety and efficacy of existing operations, such as the vaginal hysterectomy, which involves the surgical removal of some or all of a woman’s reproductive structures. He contributed to other surgeries involving the esophagus, kidneys, and intestines. He was also one of the first individuals to research alternative methods of cancer treatment and founded the Institut für Experimentelle Krebsforschung (Institute for Experimental Cancer Research), in Heidelberg, Germany. The institute became one of the first hospitals dedicated solely to the study of cancer. Czerny’s development of the breast augmentation and vaginal hysterectomy, as well as his cancer research, helped shape the creation of modern-day surgical procedures.