On the palaeopathology of skeletal neoplasms : A study about skeletal metastatic tumours in the archaeological record and methods with which they can be identified and diagnosed

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för arkeologi och antik historia

Abstract: It is decidedly rare to come across evidence of primary or secondary malignant tumours in the archaeological record, both in the excavatory stage as well as the laboratory stage. However, the statistical absence of cancer in the archaeological record may not be representative of actual prevalence, geographical distribution, or severity. Despite the scarcity, there are some documented cases of suspected and hypothesised malignant skeletal neoplasms, of varying severity and disease progression. Some of these cases have been examined and put through a posthumous or presumptive diagnostic process, in which macroscopic analysis is followed by close microscopic examination, as well as the consideration and exclusion of differential diagnoses. This bachelor’s thesis will investigate 5 cases of such examination, with the help of three palaeopathological and paleo-oncological case studies. With an interdisciplinary approach encompassing contemporary medical science as well as palaeopathological osteoarchaeology, this thesis project will consider the clinical manifestations presented by the case studies in relation to their final hypothesised diagnosis. The results indicate that these individuals may have suffered from metastatic carcinoma with a soft tissue origin, a result which is significant to both contemporary medicine as well as osteoarchaeology.

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