Martijn van Mensvoort - © Hand Research

FEBRUARI 15, 2008

Doctor diagnosed brain tumour by shaking a hand!
A doctor diagnosed a brain tumour just by shaking a man’s hand when he noticed a spongy feeling which triggered his professional concern.

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A doctor diagnosed a brain tumour just by shaking a man’s hand when he noticed a spongy feeling which triggered his professional concern.

The gesture between two strangers saved Mark Gurrieri’s life when Dr Chris Britt recognised the symptoms of acromegaly, a tumour at the base of the brain that can cause blindness, diabetes, blood pressure problems and, if left untreated, premature death.

The pair were introduced by a mutual friend and when they shook hands, Dr Britt noticed a “fleshy feeling”. Alarm bells rang immediately when he looked up to spot Mr Gurrieri’s large features, as acromegaly causes soft tissues to be deposited in the hands and growth of the skull bones.

Handshake diagnosed brain tumour

Mr Gurrieri visited a specialist after the warning from Dr Britt. The growth was removed last month after tests revealed that he had the rare condition, which affects just three in a million people. Dr Britt said:

“It’s the sort of diagnosis you might make once in a career if you’re lucky. It’s so rare most GPs wouldn’t have seen patients with it.”

Mr Gurrieri said that he owed Dr Britt his life — and a few meals at his Italian restaurant in Canary Wharf, where the pair initially met.

“I am so very grateful to Chris — I feel incredibly lucky I met him when I did.”

He is believed to have had the condition for up to five years and had been feeling unwell for some time. “I always had big hands but I noticed in recent years they had become quite chunky. I put it down to DIY at home and working in the kitchen,” he said.

“I had noticed my face becoming more fleshy too. I went to a school reunion last year and I recognised everyone but I thought it was strange that no one recognised me.” A surgeon removed 92 per cent of the tumour in an operation last month.

Mr Gurrieri, who has a seven-year-old son, must now take medication to keep the condition under control.

"My mum thinks Chris is my guardian angel," he said.

"I could have lost my sight, or I could have had a number of other ailments, so I think I owe my life to Chris - and a few meals at the restaurant."

Dr Britt, who works as a GP in Woodford Green, said he had not seen a case of acromegaly since he was a medical student working in a specialist hospital.


* Special thanks to Handanalyst Lynn Seal from the UK for reporting this news item to

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