Cancer of the stomach has been known from the earliest times, but its symptoms were usually confused by the ancient writers with those of other forms of abdominal disease. Several instances in which the morbid anatomy of the complaint was studied appear in the medical literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but no detailed description of the disease was attempted until after the publication of a memoir upon the subject by Morgagni in 1761.
The first two decades of the nineteenth century witnessed a remarkable revival of pathological inquiry, and an accurate description of encephaloid cancer was published by Laennec in 1812, which was followed in 1816 by the differentiation of colloid cancer by Otto. A few years later Cruveilhier and Carswell published their celebrated works upon pathological anatomy, which included many admirable drawings of malignant growths of the stomach.
Until 1851 only three varieties of the disease were recognised, namely, scirrhus, encephaloid, and colloid ; but in that year the microscopical features of the cylindrical-celled epithelioma were described by Reinhardt, and were subsequently investigated more fully by Virchow and Forster.
Since 1770 numerous treatises have been written upon the clinical aspect of carcinoma of the stomach, but it was not until 1812 that an attempt was made, by Bayle and Cayol, to offer a complete description of the various symptoms and signs of the disease. Statistical inquiries were first instituted by Brinton, who carefully analysed a large series of cases which he had collected from various sources, and formulated several conclusions concerning the etiology and symptomatology of the complaint, which are of much value even at the present time. The discoveries of Goldling Bird and von den Velden concerning the diminished secretion of hydrochloric acid in cancer of the stomach gave a great impulse to the chemical investigation of the morbid processes of digestion, and much interesting and important work in this branch of diagnosis has been accomplished by Riegel, Boas, Ewald, and others.
The distinction between malignant and benign tumours of the stomach was first established by Andral, Laennec, and other great pathologists of the early part of last century, while the differentiation of sarcoma from carcinoma is due to the labours of Virchow. The extreme rarity of innocent growths and the difficulties attending their diagnosis formerly caused them to be regarded as mere pathological curiosities, but the recent advance of gastric surgery has shown that they possess considerable importance from a clinical point of view. The subject of syphilis of the stomach has received very little attention, although its existence was recognised and its symptoms and treatment carefully studied by Andral nearly a century ago; and the same remark applies to the various concretions met with in the organ, the first example of which was described by Baudamant in 1777.