Karen Garloch

NC cancer doctors star in rock band and documentary

A band called N.E.D. is the star of a documentary to be screened Feb. 4 at Regal Ballantyne Village cinemas in Charlotte.

Its six musicians play onstage before screaming fans. But they also “perform” in operating rooms across the country. They’re gynecologic surgeons, and the name of their band stands for “No Evidence of Disease,” words that every cancer patient hopes to hear after treatment is finished.

That’s also the title of the hourlong documentary, which combines music and patient stories to raise awareness about “below the belt” gynecologic cancers – ovarian, uterine, cervical, vaginal and vulvar.

The musicians/surgeons first played together in 2008 to entertain peers at a Society of Gynecologic Oncology meeting. After a brief rehearsal, they played songs by the Beatles, Van Halen and the Rolling Stones. Since then they’ve produced two albums on a mission “to break through the silence of women’s gynecological cancer.”

Two band members are from UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill – Dr. John Boggess and Dr. John Soper. Others are Dr. Joanie Hope from Alaska; Dr. Nimesh Nagarsheth from New York; Dr. William “Rusty” Robinson from Louisiana; and Dr. William Winter from Oregon.

“GYN cancers are not things people talk about in our culture, and they’re woefully underfunded and misunderstood,” Boggess told The Washington Post. “We really believe that we’re starting a conversation. Because there are worse things than getting cancer, and that’s feeling isolated and without help and understanding.”

More than 91,000 gynecologic cancer diagnoses are made each year in the United States. Ovarian cancer is the deadliest, partly because symptoms, such as abdominal pain, are subtle. Unlike Pap smears for cervical cancer, there is no screening test to detect ovarian cancer.

Ellen Martin of Charlotte plans to attend the movie. Her grandmother, cousin, aunt and two great aunts died of ovarian or breast cancer. Her sister survived ovarian cancer. And in 2003, Martin tested positive for the BRCA1 gene, which meant she was at high risk for both cancers. She chose to have surgery – double mastectomy and hysterectomy – as a preventive measure. Two of her three adult daughters have also tested positive for the gene.

Martin has been to a live N.E.D. concert and liked what she saw. “It was so moving to hear them but even more so to see a group of cancer survivors celebrating life on the dance floor.”

Tickets will be available at the door or online at http://bit.ly/NEDFandango.