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Bromley surgeon who says dispelling Cancer myths can save lives

PUBLISHED: 09:26 22 October 2012

Dr Anil Desai

Dr Anil Desai

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A lump is the only sign, older women can't get it and you only need to worry if it runs in your family.

Dr Anil DesaiDr Anil Desai

These are basic so-called “truths” that are often heard when discussing breast cancer – but they could not be further from reality.

More than a third of people in Bromley still believe that most women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of the disease, or that it runs in their genes.

Orpington-based surgeon Anil Desai has gone above and beyond, quite literally, in his bid to promote awareness among women – taking on a skydive earlier this year in aid of a local breast cancer charity.

He believes that dispelling the myths surrounding the illness are crucial in educating people and saving lives.

Georgie de la NougeredeGeorgie de la Nougerede

“Women think after 70 that their risk is gone but the highest risk age group is actually between 70 and 80. That bit of the message is lost,” he said.

“This isn’t just a disease for 40-something white women, it affects all ethnicities, all ages.

“Just because older people stop getting invited for mammograms doesn’t mean they don’t need them. They can book them on their own.”

Mr Desai’s influence on the lives he’s saved in and around Bromley working at both the Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough, and Chelsfield Park, Orpington, influenced a group of women to start a charity.

Three-time cancer sufferer Georgie de la Nougrede, 63, spearheads the South-East London Breast Cancer Trust, which was started in 2010.

Made up of Mr Desai’s patients, the group has raised more than £200,000 for things as large as hospital equipment and as seemingly trivial as fans for stuffy wards.

Georgie said: “It was Mr Desai’s idea to start the trust and I said I’d have a fashion show to raise some money.

“Women come up and put money in our buckets because of him, or his help for their family.

“There are special kinds of doctors in the cancer unit, they treat you as if you have nothing to worry about and that you will get through.”

Part of Mr Desai’s work is telling patients the bad news – a job nobody would envy.

For Georgie, each diagnosis will stick with her forever and is something she says “you can never block out”.

She added: “The first time I was 45 and was very naive. When he said ‘we have found this lump’, I thought ‘well, just get it out’.

“The second time a mammogram found it and the third time was on my 60th birthday. Happy birthday to me!

“People must check themselves and look for the signs – if you find them early and get to the doctor, the facilities in Bromley are excellent for treatment.”

Thanks to Georgie and the trust, Bromley is one of five places in the UK that has a lymph-node analyser, which they raised £65,000 to buy.

Their next project is to fund a cutting-edge piece of equipment that would reduce radiation treatment for post-operation patients by weeks.

For Mr Desai the fight to improve breast cancer care has become all-consuming.

He said: “It bothers me that women just aren’t educated on the realities of the disease. I genuinely believe that if more people were aware, fewer people will lose their battle.”

The South-East London Breast Cancer Trust will hold a fundraising Bollywood-themed fashion show at The Glades on October 25. Tickets are £10 and more details can be found at www.selbct.org.

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