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Q&A with Raef Faris

Mr Raef Faris, Gynaecology and Fertility Consultant at The Lister Hospital and Lister Fertility Clinic, speaks to us about why he wanted to specialise in gynaecology and fertility, the care he offers to women with conditions such as endometriosis and fibroids, and how he has become a family doctor to many.

When did you first realise you wanted to be a gynaecologist and fertility expert?

My father was a gynaecologist, so growing up, it was always something which interested me. Gynaecology is such an important area of medicine and a specialism where the symptoms and conditions are such wide-ranging. I have also always had an interest in fertility and the impact that gynaecological conditions can have on fertility, so that also became a focus.

I was also a fertility patient myself, so that passion for fertility medicine has a deeper root for me and I am very lucky to be able to work across both areas of medicine at The Lister Hospital and Lister Fertility Clinic. It won’t be too long until I will be celebrating my 20th year at The Lister Hospital and I couldn’t think of anywhere else that I would rather work.

What conditions do you commonly treat?

In the last couple of years, we’ve seen an influx of patients who have come to us with symptoms such as painful cramps in the lower abdomen, back or pelvis during menstruation and heavy menstrual bleeding, which then often go on to being diagnosed with endometriosis. It's a condition which can be easily dismissed or misdiagnosed, so it’s important if you have any concerning symptoms to see a specialist in gynaecology. At The Lister Hospital we not only have a team of gynaecologists who can see and treat endometriosis patients, but we also have very specialist endometriosis surgeons such as Mr Shaheen Khazali, who is an expert in that field and someone who I often seamlessly refer my patients to.

I also see a lot of patients for colposcopies, which is an examination to look for any inflammatory changes, injuries or cancerous growths in the vulva, vagina and cervix. A lot of women also come to me with fibroids, which are non-cancerous tumours commonly found in women of childbearing age and are composed of muscle cells and other tissues. These can be treated with either laparoscopic (keyhole) or open surgery.

A lot of the patients who come through my door are looking for a second opinion after feeling that they have either been misdiagnosed elsewhere or symptoms have been dismissed. It’s so important that when a patient comes to see me, we start from the beginning with a blank canvas and get to the root of the problem.

Also, because I can treat women all the way through their life, it means that I often become their family doctor. I have treated women who have then become mothers and have referred their daughters to me and vice versa. It’s so lovely having that connection with patients over a long period of time.

What are the biggest changes in the diagnosis and treatment of women’s health and fertility conditions?

Firstly, at The Lister Hospital, if we are required to operate, we always ensure that the treatment options are based on what the patient’s goals are post-surgery, for example whether they would like to have children. In the past, either radical surgery (removal of the womb or ovaries) or laparoscopic surgery to remove the endometrial tissue was advised for women with endometriosis. However, with the latter issue, and with diathermy treatment (which uses heat to target the tissue), there’s a risk of damaging the surrounding healthy tissue.

An alternative treatment and a technique we use at The Lister Hospital is PlasmaJet, which uses pure plasma energy to remove endometrial tissue in a controlled way, with minimal thermal effect. This means that when used on sensitive areas such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes and bowel, damage to the surrounding tissue is minimal.

Due to COVID-19, has the care you provided differed?

During the first COVID-19 peak, we had to pause fertility treatment, which was understandably very difficult for patients. During this time, our partnership with the NHS meant that The Lister Hospital worked with Chelsea and Westminster Hospital to provide care for patients attending the Early Pregnancy Unit – a service which I was proud to lead on during this difficult time for patients.

Since March, where an examination isn’t required, we have also moved our initial consultations to the virtual space. Patient choice and flexibility is at the heart of our offering to women at The Lister Hospital so being able to offer a variety of appointment types is key, and patients have responded really well to this.

Why choose The Lister Hospital or Lister Fertility Clinic?

In a specialism such as gynaecology and fertility, it’s so important that the care you provide to patients is personalised. With my patients, they can have direct access to the best medical advice and can reach out to me if they’re ever concerned. Importantly, at The Lister Hospital I am surrounded by a team of experts, so that together we can look at each patient with a multidisciplinary approach to ensure the receive the most appropriate treatment.

I also pride myself on offering rapid access to appointments. With my gynaecology patients, they’re often able to book a next-day appointment with me at a time which is convenient to them.

So, if you have a gynaecology or fertility question or concern and would like to put your mind at rest or get some advice, please get in touch and we can talk it through. It’s so important that symptoms aren’t dismissed.

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Meet the specialist

Mr Raef Faris

Mr Raef Faris is a gynaecology and fertility consultant, He is highly experienced in all aspects of reproductive medicine and complicated cases. This includes endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, recurrent implantation failure, miscarriages, and low ovarian reserve, and various forms of fertility preservation.