The breast cancer patients undergoing reconstructions using PIG tissue
Structure of pig collagen is similar to that of humansPig tissue now being used as a graft inside the breast to hold new implantOver time, the graft becomes part of a woman's bodyProcedure enables women to have
reconstruction at the same time as their breast is removed, rather than
having second operation later on
18:10 GMT, 19 December 2012
Breast cancer patients are benefiting from a new form of reconstructive surgery that uses tissues from pigs.
The procedure enables women to have reconstruction at the same time as their breast is removed, rather than having to undergo a second operation later on.
The animal tissue is processed so that it is not rejected by the body. After a tumour has been removed, a pocket is created from the pig tissue to hold the implant, which is then placed under the muscle.
The structure of pig collagen is very similar to a human's. Doctors routinely repair large hernias using biological mesh made from pig tissue
Previously, to prepare for an implant following a mastectomy, a tissue expander would be used to make room for it.
The implant would then be put in at a later date when there was a large enough pocket to hold it.
It's already known that the structure of the pig collagen is very similar to a human’s. Doctors routinely repair large hernias using biological mesh made from pig tissue – dubbed ‘pigskin’ by some doctors.
But consultant breast surgeon at Southmead Hospital, Simon Cawthorn, said the graft of animal tissue eventually becomes part of a woman's body.
The technique was initially made available for patients in Bristol with a funding grant from Southmead Hospital breast cancer charity, Bust.
They funded ten of the procedures to help present the case for funding the method to NHS commissioners.
Constulant breast surgeon Simon Cawthrone said the technique means women only need one round of surgery
So successful was 'acellular derma matrix graft', as the procedure is known, it is now being offered to patients routinely.
Not only does it mean a women undergoes one operation rather than two, but the NHS saves money by reducing the need for theatres and beds.
Mr Cawthorne said: 'It is win-win all round. The results are good, the cosmetic outcomes are good and patients are very happy. It is routinely used in other parts of the body but the application to the breast is really new.'
It is hoped its success will allow further treatment to be made available on the NHS in future.
Mr Cawthorn told the BBC: 'All of the animal DNA is taken out of the tissue, it is safe and our patients like it.
'It is treatment best suited to small tumours, picked up early, on women with busts up to a C or D cup.
'Some patients tend not to want to take tissue from other parts of their body, so this is a good alternative.'
When Emma Nichols was diagnosed with breast cancer last December she was given the opportunity to have her mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in one procedure.
The mother of three boys, Jack, 19, Joe, 15, and Tommy, 10, was fortunate to be diagnosed quickly after discovering a lump in her breast.
Before surgery to remove the tumour, she was offered a reconstruction using the tissue matrix.
At the time, the procedure was not routinely available on the NHS locally, but after a grant was made by Southmead Hospital's breast care centre charity Bust.
Mrs Nichols, 43, said: 'Psychologically, to wake up and feel it was there, I don't think I could have gone through lots of operations afterwards.
'I was back to work within five weeks. I was lucky as I didn't need chemotherapy or radiotherapy.'