By her own admission, Yvonne Carter is not the kind of person who is able to sit at home and do nothing.

Before she was appointed vice dean at Warwick University Medical School in October 2003, the 46-year-old was already an eminent academic responsible for a range of research.

She is married with a teenage son and has received an OBE for her tireless work and studies on providing healthcare for vulnerable members of society.

But 18 months ago - a week into her new job as vice dean - Prof Carter was told she had breast cancer.

While undergoing a rigorous regime of chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and the Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry, she continued to work.

Then last October, just 15 days after being offered her "dream job" as the medical school's dean, she underwent surgery to remove a cancerous lump.

After four weeks rest at her home in Westwood Heath, Coventry, she was back at her desk - despite admitting she would ask her own patients to convalesce "for about a year".

She said: "I suppose it's a case of do as I say, not do as I do. I do cope better when I'm keeping busy, so in that respect it was easier for me to stay at work.

"I did think about whether to carry on working but this is my dream job, so it would've been difficult to chuck it all in, really.

"But I don't consider myself to be brave. You don't wake up and think 'I'm going to be brave today' but your strength can surprise you at times like this.

"Anyway, there are so many people out there who are braver than me."

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women, and more than 40,000 are diagnosed in Britain each year. And one in three people know someone who has cancer.

"When I read the statistics on how common breast cancer is, and I thought it might affect me, it still came as a nasty shock," she said.

Despite her surgery last year, Professor Carter is still continuing her cancer battle as she has developed secondary bone cancer.

So as Cancer Research UK prepares to stage its annual Race For Life events across the country, she is urging women not to ignore any symptoms or worries.

"As a female doctor I've always attracted a lot of female patients and I've always done my best to be sympathetic to them," she said.

"The awareness about cancer, particularly breast cancer, is much greater than it used to be, which is good.

"But I do think there are still a lot of women who, for some reason, are reluctant or worried about going to their GP. They shouldn't be afraid to go and get it checked out."

She added: "I'm younger than most breast cancer sufferers and there's no history of the disease in my family, which shows why it's important to get any lump seen by a doctor."

* For more information about breast cancer, support groups or Race For Life events, you can go online at