Doctors at a U.S. hospital diagnosed a 2,000-year-old Egyptian mummy named Hen with cancer using a computed tomography scan this week.
According to the report, doctors couldn't be sure the cancer alone caused his death, but the discovery gives fascinating insight into an illness that continues to affect humanity today.
Explaining that Hen had a rare, malignant tumor on his fibula, one of the two bones of the lower leg, Dr. Mark Levinsohn of Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, New York, said "here we have a rare circumstance and a rare tumor that evoked our interest a lot."
The mummy was reportedly sent through a CT scanner 11 years ago, but a decade's advance in technology and upgrade in medical tools allowed doctors to scan the body again to gain greater detail.
"What, at that time, was a 16-detector scanner is now a 320-detector [scanner] and all that additional information is now derived when we scan the body," Levinsohn said.
The detection scanners work by converting infrared radiation into electrical signals, which in turn produce digital data that scientists are able to analyze. The more rows of radiation detector arrays, the greater detail the digital images produced.Hen was brought from Egypt to the Cazenovia Library and Museum in New York in 1984 by Robert Hubbard, who purchased the mummy during a tour in Cairo.