Obituary: Dr Jane Chomet

Janina (Jane) Rosita Friedman, general practitioner: born Lwow, Poland 10 March 1934; married 1957 Seweryn Chomet (two sons, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1972), 1973 Danny Falkner; died London 19 February 1994.

JANE CHOMET was a pioneer of primary-care screening programmes now commonplace in general practice. She was particularly well-known as a leading campaigner for the early detection and treatment of pre-cancerous forms of cervical cancer. As a result of her innovations and dedication, many women owe her not only their fertility but also their lives.

Her interest in cervical cancer began in the 1960s when as a medical student at the Royal Free Hospital she met George Papanicolaou, the doctor who developed the cervical smear (also known as the 'Pap' smear) as an early technique for the detection of cervical cancer. Several years later, having started up a practice in north London, she was determined that no woman should suffer from cervical cancer as a result of negligence.

She instigated intensive screening programmes for all women in her care at a time when government regulations stated that most women under 35 need not be screened and that one smear every five years was adequate. Yet her annual check-ups revealed abnormal smears that could lead to cancer in teenage girls, and ironically she even discovered a potential cancer in the mother of a top gynaecologist. She was screening a thousand women a year and was horrified to discover an abnormality rate of around 9 per cent (although many of these were not related to cervical cancer).

She was the first GP in Britain to offer a colposcopy service on the National Health Service, where a colposcope (a specialised microscope) was used to examine the cervix. 'Katie the Colposcope' (as she called it) enabled women with abnormal smears to have a follow-up diagnosis in the relative comfort of her magnificently designed purpose-built surgery rather than suffer the agony of waiting weeks for a hospital appointment. She chose the colposcope as a wedding anniversary present in preference to the diamond ring her husband had originally offered. The welfare of her patients was always paramount.

In the early 1980s, while working alongside Dr (now Professor) Albert Singer at the Royal Northern Hospital, north London, she learnt to use a laser (on loan from the manufacturer) to provide a quick, relatively painless and cheap alternative treatment to invasive and often painful surgery for cervical abnormalities.

She was determined that the hospital should have the laser permanently, and with the help of the local newspaper, marathon runners, swimming galas, Raise-A-Laser T- shirts and sponsored walks, she drove a campaign to raise pounds 25,000 to buy the laser. In less than five months the total was raised and the laser purchased.

As an acknowledged expert on cervical cancer she wrote newspaper articles and gave countless interviews on radio and television programmes such as Panorama to argue for improved screening services. In 1989, she co-authored with me a book, Cervical Cancer, which has since become recommended reading for medical professionals. Further papers on screening appeared in the British Medical Journal, publishing ideas that were subsequently adopted by the World Health Organisation.

Jane Chomet was not just a pioneer in cancer research. She also initiated the use of hormone replacement therapy and well-woman and well-man clinics before they became fashionable. She did research on cardiovascular disease, diabetes and asthma in her practice, and one innovation was to enlist the help of an opera singer to teach breathing techniques to young asthmatics.

The daughter of Jewish parents living in Poland during the Second World War, she was born Janina Friedman in 1934. She owed her survival to the ingenuity of her mother Celina, whose procurement of false identity papers enabled them to escape the Gestapo on several occasions. Her father, Bruno Friedman, a distinguished lawyer, along with many other of her relatives, was murdered at the start of the German occupation.

However, her mother then married a Polish doctor, Jacob Sekler, who brought them to England in 1947 and inspired Jane to become a doctor. Medicine became her life and obsession. She once said: 'If I don't see patients I'm miserable.' Jane Chomet was always far too busy to be miserable.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones