Breast cancer is one of the first recognisable cancers described in history, and we trace its recognition and treatment through antiquity. Galen saw cancer of the breast as the most common cancer of his time (and is still the most common cancer among South African women). Hippocrates in the 5th century BC possibly first described it. The Corpus Hippocraticum recorded a single case but mentioned no specific treatment. It was noticed that the cancer (karkindma; carcinoma in Latin) could be preceded by an occult cancer (karkinos kruptos). Standard dogma through antiquity for close on a millennium was that all tumours resulted from an inflammatory process caused by an abnormal flux of tumours, in which an excess of black bile was crucial. For centuries after Hippocrates, and through the Hellenistic period, no further cases of breast cancer were recorded. However, physicians during this time must have encountered the common tumour regularly and evolved therapies. Cato (2nd century BC) advocated cabbage poultices as a panacea for tumours, and breast cancer in particular.