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Suzz's Story
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'Suzz`s Story'

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'The Photographer`s Story'

Roger Hutchings photographed Suzanne Keith being operated on by a team led by Mr Gullam at King's College Hospital.

"Suzanne Keith worked at our photographic agency last year and we all got to know her. She went to the optician one Saturday after a migraine, with disturbed vision, and was sent straight to hospital for a brain scan.

"Suzanne had a brain tumour, a little larger than a tangerine, and was transferred to King's College Hospital in London. She called Network and asked if I would document the operation. It was a privilege to be asked but I was apprehensive about photographing someone I knew in such potentially life-threatening circumstances.

"The procedure looks dehumanising - like a kind of mummification - but is essentially about protecting the patient's eyes and immobilising the body. The surgery looks brutal. I was astonished when I saw the lid of her head being lifted away to expose the brain and tumour. Obviously that's what you have to do. But to see it is extraordinary.

"I can't emphasise enough how assured, certain and caring the clinical team were. After an operation which lasted almost seven hours, Suzy was taken to the recovery room and started to regain consciousness. The surgeon came and asked her to move her right arm up and down which she did easily, if woozily. It was a critical moment, determining if she had neurological damage. She passed. I gave a whoop inside.

"The tumour was benign, and she continues to make a good recovery."

Treatment for cancers is mainly by surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy; a range of newer treatments are under investigation. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women, lung cancer the most common form in men.

Treatment of children's cancers has improved significantly over the last 20 years, with over 70 per cent cure rates for some types of childhood leukaemia. In adult women, cervical cancer is declining thanks to early detection techniques. Stomach cancer incidence has declined over the last 30 years.

Cancer remains a major killer, and in 1996 for the first time overtook coronary heart disease as the UK's biggest single cause of death, claiming 156,890 lives.

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