Professor Karol Sikora patron of CANCERactive


Karol Sikora Professor Karol Sikora, Medical Director of CancerPartnersUK and honorary Consultant Oncologist at Hammersmith Hospital, London and was visiting professor at Imperial College School of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital, London until 2004.

Privately, Karol Sikora lives in Beaconsfield with his wife, a practice nurse, and their rescued dog. They have three children, now grown up. Hill walking is Sikoras favourite pastime and he recently spent five days exploring the Dorset coastal paths. Publicly, the Professor has found a rightful place on Saga magazines 2006 wise list, where his entry as a trailblazing oncologist falls between that of Monica Siddiqui, Islamic scholar and fashion designer Paul Smith. This particular honour raises a rich laugh from the neat, authoritative sage sipping strong black coffee in his Harley Street office: Its very strange how the media deals with us he reflects. They know where to put pop singers and artists, but doctors they cant really assess. Im probably on the list because Ive made a lot of public statements and so acquired a profile. How much does that have to do with skill or ability? It amuses me and my oncology friends to vie for the media slot of worlds top cancer specialist. Ive made leading British slot but we joke about making the top international label. Its not serious: I guess if I was looking for an oncologist, I wouldnt just seek out the worlds top. Youre looking for someone with a special interest in the problem you have, and someone who communicates well with patients and their families.

Open quotesI wanted to see money go to the right placesClose quotes

Karol Sikora has seen - and initiated - change aplenty in the 20 years since he became a consultant at Hammersmith. His environment is unrecognisable as the rundown place he found: The hospital was very exciting in research terms, especially in cardiology and gastro-enterology, but our cancer ward was an old workhouse. I wanted to see money go to the right places. We built a new cancer centre, got a big research grant from the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now CRUK) and really started growing again.

Only on reaching consultant status, says Professor Sikora, did he realise how significantly cancer care in Britain lagged behind Europe. About 18 years ago, the first published Eurocare study showed that our mortality for cancer was much higher, disease by disease, than other countries of Western Europe. And the reason for that was, I think, that in previous generations the treatment of cancer patients was the forgotten speciality medicines underinvested Cinderella. Radiotherapy patients were treated in the twilight zones of hospital basements. Staff were demotivated and their numbers depleted. As a registrar Sikora remembers seeing up to 60 cancer patients - maybe 10 new, 50 on follow-up - in a single morning. Neither staff nor patients were satisfied, even in those days of briefer consultations, before doctors took time to give their patients adequate information and sat down to discuss the relative risk analyses of treatment options. I realised then that to transform the whole system massive investment was needed. And there has indeed been transformation.

To read a full interview with Professor Sikopra click here.


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