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(6.) Preparations of Iodine.—" That the external use of iodine, in the form of ointment, sometimes completely removes tumors possessing the characters of scirrhus*, (where it has been had recourse to at an early stage of their development,) is a fact of which we have witnessed some examples. The truly cancerous nature of such growths may of course be questioned ; yet a trial of iodine externally, provided the part be indolent, and its use excite no irritative action, is certainly advisable : the length of the trial should be regulated by the apparent influence produced on the tumor." Since I wrote these words in 1840, my confidence in the powers of iodine-friction, especially when combined with the use of the iodide of arsenic internally, has increased. Nor does my present experience allow me to conceive a single doubt that tumors, actually and truly scirrhous in structure,—tumors which would have run the common course of cancer,—may be arrested in their progress by early and judicious use of these agents. Nor is similar testimony wanting from others. Mr. Gr. N. Hill's cases afford very decisive evidence to the same effect, and Dr. Ashwell's statements on the subject (see Cancer of the Uterus) are strongly encouraging. The convictions of Mr. Travers on the point are stated with peculiar emphasis. " By an indolent scirrhus," says this writer, " I mean an incompressible permanent tumor, possessing for many years no distinguishing character of that disease ; but in a deranged state of health assuming its genuine character, and at a particular period of life breaking up into an actual cancer. I do not entertain a doubt that such a tumor may be, and often is, absorbed in its first stage, and need not therefore of necessity follow this course. I feel assured that most of the hard breasts of young and middle-aged women admit of being reduced by the iodine or the mercurial ointment, if early resorted to, and steadily persevered in, having often succeeded in procuring their absorption by such means, when, from the characters they presented, I should otherwise have felt compelled to urge their removal by operation Nothing is more certain than the susceptibility of absorption in many such tumors at an early stage of their existence.
The preparation of iodine used is not a matter of indifference. That ordinarily employed, a combination of iodide of potassium, iodine and lard, almost invariably produces a degree of cutaneous irritation, which makes it necessary to intermit its use frequently, and sometimes give it up altogether. The iodide of lead ointment (composed of a drachm of the salt and an ounce of lard) is not only completely free from this inconvenience, but has appeared to me more actively promotive of absorption. The ointment should be smeared in very gently, twice daily, for several minutes at a time.
source: The Nature and Treatment of Cancer", by Walter Hayle Walshe, M.D., 1846
*scirrhus~ Scirrhus is a hard, unequal tumor, which occasionally appears in different viscera, such as the liver and womb, but more fre-quently in the grandular parts, for instance, the breasts, arm-pits, and about the neck. chestofbooks.com