Women could grow new breasts after cancer treatment

Breakthrough that could one day help cancer survivors to regrow their own breasts, after testing on pigs is successful...

A revolutionary operation could soon allow women to regrow their breasts after cancer surgery.

The technique offers fresh hope to the thousands of women every year whose breasts are removed in a mastectomy. The new method would create breasts that look and feel more natural, while reducing the amount of scarring.

Breast cancer affects more than 45,000 British women a year and kills more than 1,000 a month. Around 12,000 women, including some whose genes put them at high risk of the disease, have a mastectomy each year.

The latest reconstructive technique, which could be in widespread use in three years, involves growing breast tissue from a teaspoonful of cells. The Australian doctors behind the surgery have already successfully tested it on pigs and plan to carry out operations on women within months.

Phillip Marzella, of Melbourne’s Bernard O’Brien Institute, said: ‘We hope it will have a significant impact on the world. We also like to think that it would alleviate the shock that a woman feels when she is diagnosed with breast cancer, to know she could possibly grow her breasts back.’

In pigs, the entire process took six weeks. But it is expected it will take six to eight months for women to regrow breast tissue.

Dr Sarah Cant, of the British charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, described it as ‘extraordinary’. ‘We know that losing a breast can impact a woman’s self-esteem and so any new, potentially improved, breast reconstruction techniques will be very welcome,’ she added.

But Anthony Hollander, professor of tissue engineering at Bristol University, warned: ‘They’ll have to be able to demonstrate a technique that guarantees that all the cancerous cells are removed and none are grown up in the process, so there is still some way to go.’

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