Intended for healthcare professionals

Filler A memorable patient

The Swan Lady

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 07 December 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1210
  1. Dick Ashford, consultant clinical oncologist, Mount Vernon Hospital, Chipperfield (

    It is 1946. A young woman is dying of breast cancer in a side street in Streatham. This is before the days of chemotherapy, and her radiotherapy has badly burnt and scarred her. The family doctor tells her distraught husband that there is no more he can do for her. “If they had not cut into the cancer, she might have survived.” A small girl overhears these words and never forgets them. The doctor leaves, and shortly the young woman dies, …

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