Page last updated at 07:10 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 08:10 UK

Liposuction aids cancer patients

By Hywel Griffith
BBC Wales health correspondent

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Fat taken from around the stomach or thighs is processed by a new machine before being injected into the breast

A new form of liposuction is being used to help cancer patients have breast reconstruction after surgery.

Ten patients at Singleton Hospital in Swansea are the first in Wales to benefit from the procedure.

Fat taken from around the stomach or thighs is processed with a new machine, which uses stem cells to help the fat survive.

It is then re-injected into the body after the original removal of a tumour from the breast.

The new procedure - which is less invasive than traditional reconstruction involving a major operation and several days in hospital - is available at only a handful of centres around the UK.

Samantha Ward-Jones, 39, who wanted to repair damage from the removal of a tumour from her breast two years ago, was the first of the patients at Singleton to have the treatment.

Samantha Ward-Jones
To feel whole again and feel back to normal like I was two years ago is incredible
Samantha Ward-Jones, patient

"To be able to be part of something so new and so revolutionary was just very exciting," said Ms Ward-Jones. "I felt it was the end of a bad period in my life and something positive."

"It was a very hard thing to have breast cancer and have the operation and have the tumour removed," she adds.

'Higher success rate'

"To feel whole again and feel back to normal like I was two years ago is incredible."

According to consultant oncoplastic surgeon Nader Khonji, the new technique has a higher success rate because of the innovative use of stem and regenerative cells from the fat.

"The fat that's removed is put into the machine for processing," Mr Khonji explained.

"This machine uses a special enzyme to break down the tissue and spins it to concentrate the stem cells - the crucial cells that contain growth factors for the new growth of blood vessels."

Those cells are then mixed back in remaining fat and re-injected into the breast - a far quicker procedure than conventional breast reconstruction, which involves moving muscle tissue from the patient's back.

WOMEN WITH BREAST CANCER
2,457 cases in 2007
2,445 cases in 2006
2,377 cases in 2005
Source: Welsh Cancer Intelligence & Surveillance Unit

Shirley Redden, who also underwent the procedure, said: "It's about self-esteem."

Mrs Redden, who wanted breast reconstruction following a lumpectomy two years ago, said: "I might be older, but I've still got pride.

"I'm hoping this will help make me feel better and get over the trauma of treatment. When it is done, I'll feel like a woman again."

If treatment of the first 10 patients continues to be successful, it is hoped that the new procedure can be developed in the future for patients needing whole breast reconstruction after mastectomy, instead of using conventional implants.



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