About the Crab & Cancer

crabThe crab, which is a cancer zodiac sign is our corporate logo. In Latin, cancer is the word for crab. The image of the crab inspired the first application of the word to the disease.

The ancient physician Galen (129-199 BC) coined the term when he wrote: "Just as a crab's feet extend from every part of the body, so in this disease the veins are distended, forming a similar figure."

Today, the Greek term carcinoma is the medical term for a malignant tumor derived from epithelial cells. It is Celsus who translated carcinos into the Latin cancer, also meaning crab. Galen used "oncos" to describe all tumours, the root for the modern word oncology.

Hippocrates described several kinds of cancers. He called benign tumours oncos, Greek for swelling, and malignant tumours carcinos, Greek for crab or crayfish. This name comes from the appearance of the cut surface of a solid malignant tumour, with "the veins stretched on all sides as the animal the crab has its feet, whence it derives its name". He later added the suffix -oma, Greek for swelling, giving the name carcinoma. Since it was against Greek tradition to open the body, Hippocrates only described and made drawings of outwardly visible tumors on the skin, nose, and breasts.

Treatment was based on the humor theory of four bodily fluids (black and yellow bile, blood, and phlegm). According to the patient's humor, treatment consisted of diet, blood-letting, and/or laxatives. Through the centuries it was discovered that cancer could occur anywhere in the body, but humor-theory based treatment remained popular until the 19th century with the discovery of cells.