Interesting Facts About Egyptians and cancer

Interesting Facts About Egyptians and cancer

The ancient Egyptians are renowned for their monumental achievements in architecture, art, and writing, but their contributions to medicine are equally fascinating. Among their many medical practices, the ancient Egyptians had an early understanding of cancer and attempted to treat it using various methods. Here are ten lesser-known, mind-blowing facts about how the ancient Egyptians dealt with cancer. 

1. Earliest Documentation of Cancer

One of the oldest medical texts, the Edwin Smith Papyrus, dates back to around 1600 BCE and contains descriptions of cancer-like conditions. This document demonstrates that ancient Egyptians had some awareness of tumors and their potential dangers.

2. Terminology and Understanding

The ancient Egyptians used the term "swelling" to describe tumors. They observed that some swellings could be surgically removed while others would return, suggesting an early understanding of the difference between benign and malignant growths.

3. Early Treatments

To treat tumors, ancient Egyptians combined surgical removal with topical treatments. Poultices made from a mix of animal, plant, and mineral substances were applied to the affected areas, showcasing their innovative use of natural remedies.

4. Herbal Remedies

Herbs played a crucial role in ancient Egyptian medicine. Ingredients like myrrh, honey, and frankincense were commonly used for their antiseptic and healing properties. These natural remedies were believed to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

5. Insights from Mummification

Modern studies of mummified remains have revealed evidence of cancer in ancient Egyptians, including cases of prostate cancer and breast cancer. These findings indicate that cancer was present in ancient populations, though it was likely less common than it is today.

6. Spiritual and Medical Practices

The ancient Egyptians often combined medical treatments with spiritual practices. They believed that diseases, including cancer, could be caused by supernatural forces or the wrath of gods. As a result, they used amulets and incantations alongside medical treatments to protect and heal the afflicted.

7. Radiological Evidence

X-ray examinations of mummies have shown that some ancient Egyptians suffered from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. This radiological evidence provides a direct link to their experiences with the disease.

8. The Ebers Papyrus

Another significant medical text, the Ebers Papyrus, mentions treatments for tumors and other ailments. This document indicates that ancient Egyptian physicians had a systematic approach to diagnosing and treating various medical conditions, including cancer.

9. Surgical Techniques

Ancient Egyptians practiced rudimentary surgery, including trepanation (drilling holes into the skull) to relieve symptoms of cranial pressure. This technique might have been used to remove tumors or alleviate other symptoms associated with cancer.

10. Cancer Among Royalty

Cancer did not spare the Egyptian royalty. For instance, a 2017 study of Pharaoh Senebkay’s mummy indicated he might have died from a cancer-like disease. This evidence suggests that cancer affected all social classes in ancient Egypt.


The ancient Egyptians' approach to cancer reveals a remarkable blend of early medical knowledge and spiritual beliefs. Their efforts to understand and treat cancer, despite the limitations of their time, laid the groundwork for the evolution of medical science. Modern studies of mummified remains continue to shed light on their practices, offering a glimpse into the challenges they faced and the innovative solutions they devised.

As we continue to explore the history of medicine, the story of the ancient Egyptians and their battle with cancer serves as a testament to human ingenuity and resilience. It reminds us that the quest to understand and combat disease is as old as civilization itself.

You may also like These Blogs

View all