In 1975, Dr. Vera Peters stood fast in front of 400 medical professionals and painstakingly proved them wrong.
This talk, in which she argued that breast cancer should be treated with removing merely the cancerous area and treating with radiation (instead of the borderline mutilation that was the standard treatment of the day), was not received well. Despite the overwhelming amount of evidence Peters presented — she had meticulously conducted a study of over 8,000 cases by hand — her findings were largely dismissed, and advocates of her “lumpectomy” methodology labeled incompetent. Her daughter, Dr. Jenny Ingram, recalls of the event, “there was just a dead silence at the end of this. I don’t think anyone could believe it, they were just shocked (by the data).”
History, of course, has borne out that she was correct, and her techniques are now the basis of modern-day breast cancer treatments.
This event was the second act to an already-remarkable life. In earlier years, her work on Hodgkin’s disease had brought it down from a death sentence to a treatable disease. Unfortunately, according to her contemporary Dr. Charles Hayter, the international medical community did not appreciate her spot in the limelight, and more or less shunned her, saying “go back to Toronto and do your women’s work.”
So she did. And improved the lot of a great many breast cancer survivors in the process.
She was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 1975, raised to Officer in 1977, and was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2010. In January of 2015, the aforementioned Dr. Hayter wrote and put on a play about her, entitled Radical, in Toronto. It opened to good reviews.
(thanks to Moira for sending this in!)