Devon mum's pioneering operation to beat cancer
A mother-of-two at risk of cancer is to have both her breasts removed and then reconstructed with a pioneering technique using pig skin.
Kelly Cruse, 32, has seen her mother, great grandmother and cousin all suffer breast cancer – and has an 87% chance of developing it herself.
She decided to have the double mastectomy for the sake of her two young children Oliver, five, and Jamie, eight.
Breast reconstruction usually involves using tissue from another part of the patient's body – a practice that is painful and leaves multiple scars.
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But thanks to a pioneering operation she now has the option of having reconstruction with a new technique called Strattice Tissue Matrix.
Normal implants are still used to rebuild the breast but a pig skin graft works like an internal bra – holding the implant in place and allowing natural shape of a breast.
The procedure allows patients to have their reconstruction done in an all-in-one operation, rather than the two ops normally needed.
It also leaves the breasts more flexible and robust so patients can still enjoy sports and other physical activities.
Kelly, of Plymouth, had genetic testing for the hereditary breast cancer gene BRCA2 in January after her mother urged her and her sister to be tested. After her results came back positive, Kelly, a world-renowned cat breeder, elected to have a double mastectomy.
She said: "Cancer is in my family. My mum has had it and so has my great grandma and my cousin.
"Because I carry the gene I've got an 87% chance of getting breast cancer and by the time I'm 40 I'll probably have to have my ovaries removed too because of the risk of ovarian cancer.
"When I found out I had the gene I knew I had to have a double mastectomy. Waiting for cancer to happen is not an option."
The graft is pigskin stripped of all pig cells so that the body doesn't reject it. It was first developed for use in general surgery such as hernia repairs and breast reconstruction in the US and was granted approval for use in Europe in 2008.
Kelly, due for surgery today, said:
"It's all a bit of a frightening prospect. I'll look normal to everyone else but I'll feel like my femininity has gone.
"But if it gives me the confidence to face people then I've got to do it."
Kelly is now urging women to push for genetic testing if cancer is in their family.