25 Jun 2009

South Pole cancer doctor dies in US

1:07 pm on 25 June 2009

A doctor who diagnosed and treated her own cancer while at the South Pole has died.

Dr Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald was the only doctor stationed at the South Pole station during the winter of 1999 when she found a lump in her breast.

Because winter conditions meant flights were unable to land, Dr Nielsen FitzGerald had to perform a biopsy on herself, communicating with medical specialists via email.

She was able to begin treatment of the disease when anti-cancer drugs were air-dropped to her and was eventually rescued in October 1999.

It meant a daring flight - landing in minus 50 degrees Celsius conditions - a much earlier flight in spring than usually attempted.

Dr FitzGerald returned to the United States for multiple operations, including a mastectomy, but her cancer returned in 2005.

She died on Tuesday, 23 June.