A cyclist who ended up in hospital after being run over by a taxi today recalled how it led to the shock discovery of a brain tumour.
Paul Bartlett, 37, (above, with wife Louise), from East Dulwich, underwent a nine-hour operation to remove a tumour “the size of a mushroom” after being admitted unconscious to UCLH following the crash in Soho Square.
Mr Bartlett, who teaches art and design at Kingsford Community School in Beckton, told me: “I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have been hit by a London taxi. I knew nothing about brain tumours until I found out I had one.”
At the time of the crash, in May 2010, he had been working as a coffee shop barista as he prepared to begin his PGCE teacher training.
He recalled: “I woke up in hospital and I didn’t really know what was going on. I went back to sleep and woke up in the morning, and was confronted by a doctor who said: ‘Your helmet saved your life.’”
After recovering from the crash, he was invited onto a research project testing cognitive behaviour. A 15-minute MRI scan revealed the presence of the tumour.
He recalled: “They asked: ‘Have you ever had any trouble with headaches?’ I said no. They said: ‘We would like to refer you to a specialist.’”
Four months later, surgeons at Charing Cross hospital removed the tumour, which was found to be non-cancerous.
Mr Bartlett was among the survivors of brain tumours present at the launch of a new centre of excellence set up by the charity Brain Tumour Research at Queen Mary University of London’s campus in Whitechapel.
A £1 million a year fund has been provided for research into what causes brain tumours. They kill more people under 40 – 306 in 2012 – than any other cancer but receive only one per cent of total cancer research funding. Only 18.8 per cent of people survive for five years after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Emily Jones, 27, a PhD student and lecturer at Oxford university, said it took a year and five visits to a GP before her cancerous brain tumour was diagnosed.
Doctors thought she was suffering from stress, vertigo or food intolerance. “I couldn’t finish a can of fizzy drink because tipping my head back would make me feel as though I would fall over,” Ms Jones, from Willesden Green, said.
“What frustrates me is that I was allowed to go on so long. A perfectly healthy 24-year-old woman was having persistent vomiting and extreme dizziness for an extended period, and nobody really thought it was that unusual.”
Almost £41 million was spent on breast cancer research in 2012, about 10 times more than on brain tumours. “I just think it’s very, very scary when you see this expenditure gap between certain types of cancer that have been ‘branded’ a particular colour and the survival rates have increased exponentially, and others such as brain cancer that are really underfunded,” Ms Jones said.
Commons speaker John Bercow, patron of Brain Tumour Research, said the “ghastly scourge” of brain tumours deserved more funding, as it was “sharply and embarrassingly lower than that for other cancers”.