Ruthless and Brilliant
Following her own experience of a mastectomy, Jenni Murray asks what does it take to wield the surgical knife?
At the end of 2006 Jenni, one of Radio 4's longest standing presenters announced, very publicly, that she had breast cancer. She told her listeners on Woman's Hour that she would be away from the microphone for a while, as she underwent treatment.
Jenni returned to work after a mastectomy and chemotherapy. Then in 2008 she was joined on the programme by the Irish journalist Lia Mills, who had much of her jaw, neck and cheekbone removed after she was diagnosed with oral cancer. She described her surgeons as 'ruthless and brilliant' - brilliant enough to save her life but ruthless enough to take a knife to her face.
This got Jenni thinking - what does it take to lift a scalpel and cut into the most intimate and treasured parts of the human body? The programme examines the extremes of surgery, and speaks to the doctors whose work may save lives, but also fundamentally change them. The patient may survive, but their appearance will be essentially altered. How do you tell a patient that radical surgery is needed, as they beg you for an alternative?
As part of the programme Jenni will attend a mastectomy.
Presented by Jenni Murray, produced in Manchester by Nicola Swords.