A woman who lost her jaw to cancer has had it regrown from her own skin and bone.
Val Blunden had the bottom of her mouth and chin destroyed by cancer more than two years ago. The 55-year-old was left unable to eat, drink and talk, taking early retirement from her job as a postwoman. Using new treatment, surgeons from Nottingham and Wolverhampton have reconstructed her jaw by “stretching” her own tissue and bone around a frame.
Known as distraction osteogenesis, the process has been around for a number of years but never been used in this way before, Dilip Srinivasan, maxillofacial surgeon at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, said. A frame built at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham has acted as “scaffolding”, and since an operation in January the jaw has grown 9cm.
It is hoped the final surgery to remove the frame will take place in May.
Ms Blunden, from Wolverhampton, first found a lump underneath her tongue in January 2015 and following diagnosis has had glands, chin, lower lip and part of her tongue removed. After two previous attempts to reconstruct her jaw using skin grafts failed, and with her being unable to use a prosthetic replacement, she hopes the procedure will improve her life.
“Having lived like this for two years I’d begun to accept that this is how life was going to be, but now I’m so much more hopeful for a different future,” she said.
Mr Srinivasan said: “We have been able to achieve this in a few operations before, but we’d never attempted it on a patient missing bone, skin and muscles.
“When there’s no jaw, there’s no shape to follow, and if there’s no shape to follow everything will grow in a straight line.”