John Hayward

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 29 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2751
  1. Anne Gulland, London
  1. annecgulland{at}

Noted breast cancer surgeon and researcher and founder of the British Breast Group

John Hayward became a breast cancer surgeon at a time when the most common treatment for the disease was mastectomy. This operation came at a high physical and psychological price for patients, and Hayward began to think that such radical treatment was, for many women, unnecessary. With Sir Hedley Atkins, a senior surgical colleague at Guy’s Hospital in London, he ran the first trial to compare mastectomy with breast conserving surgery.

Atkins, after whom the cancer unit is named at Guy’s, introduced the randomised control trial to medicine in the UK, and Hayward was a keen proponent of it. Together they showed that not all patients needed a mastectomy and that breast conserving surgery would suit some women.

Hayward’s first research was on hormones, which had long been known to have a role in the development of cancer, and, at the time of his first research in the 1950s, women often faced removal of their adrenal and pituitary glands. This treatment was not successful for all women, and Hayward began to …

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