Plymouth woman to have breasts reconstructed using pig skin
A SINGLE mother-of-two carrying an hereditary cancer gene is preparing to have both her breasts removed and reconstructed using pig skin.
Thirty-one-year-old Kelly Cruse, a world-renowned cat breeder from West Park, is preparing to go under the knife on Wednesday when it is believed she will become the first person to undergo such a reconstruction at Derriford Hospital.
Kelly had genetic testing for the hereditary breast cancer gene BRCA2 in January after her mum, who has had breast cancer, pushed for Kelly and her sister to be tested – and it came back positive.
"Cancer is in my family," said Kelly, mum to five-year-old Oliver and eight-year-old Jamie.
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"My mum has had it and so has my great grandma and my cousin. Because I carry the gene I've got an 87 per cent 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."
While a large percentage of women who decide to have a reconstruction following a preventative double mastectomy opt for saline implants, Kelly has decided to go for a fairly new procedure called the Strattice Tissue Matrix.
"It's the first time it's been done in Plymouth," said Kelly, a natural 34C.
"I didn't want the usual saline implants because I'll be in and out of hospital a lot over the course of my life having to have them altered and more surgery. But I researched into it and found that I could have a reconstruction using Strattice. It's pig skin which is used to form a balcony and hold the implants in place as well as increase blood flow.
"I'm going to have both of my nipples removed too because the risk of breast cancer is still there if they leave them. So I'll have to have my nipples tattooed on after surgery. It's all a bit of a frightening prospect.
"When I found out I carried the gene I was very matter of fact about it out. Obviously I was gutted.
"Not having my breasts removed wasn't an option for me though. It's almost very surreal.
"I feel like a different person at the moment. And once I've had my mastectomy and reconstruction it will be like wearing a mask, it won't be my chest.
"It's a massive life-changing decision. I'll look normal to everyone else but I'll feel like my femininity has gone.
"I suppose I'm going to feel a bit like a mannequin 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.
"If you've got occurrences of cancer in your family ask the doctor to refer you to a geneticist for testing," she said.
"We had to push to get tested, had mum not pushed so hard who knows what the outcome might have been. I understand it can be scary because it's almost like do you want to know your future?
"But life has a way of panning out. The more people that get tested the better."
Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie hit the headlines earlier this month when she announced she would undergo a double mastectomy due to a "faulty" BRCA1 gene.