INTRODUCTION: Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer among women, impacting 2.1 million women each year, and causes the most significant number of cancer-related deaths among women. In 2018, it was estimated that 627,000 women died from breast cancer – that is approximately 15% of all cancer deaths among women.
PROBLEM: Due to excellent advances in cancer treatment, 78% of women now survive breast cancer for over 10 years. However, many women suffer from depression (40%) and post-traumatic stress following treatment, particularly if they have lost a breast. For many women, breast reconstruction is a major step in regaining quality of life, self-esteem and confidence. However, as current surgical options can be unreliable, this often leads to the need for multiple operations, and not always achieving the desired result. Recurrent operations and prolonged stays in hospital cause distress, discomfort and anxiety, as well as requiring the recovery time associated with undergoing major surgery. This leads to fewer than 50% of women who have undergone a mastectomy choosing not to proceed with breast reconstruction.
SOLUTION: I have engineered breast implant using a reverse engineering approach. In short breast implant are developed using natural proteins which are already present in the human breast. This implant will act as a scaffold and ensure that the stem cell supplemented fat will stay within the breast reconstruction site rather than dissipating throughout the body. By using proteins which naturally occur in body tissue to make the implant, this means that the rejection risk is significantly reduced when combined with the patient’s own cells. Moreover, as the breast tissue grows, the implant is absorbed, leaving behind a natural breast. The patient would make a quicker recovery, return to work sooner, and feel able to re-join society.
IMPACT: The aim of this project is to improve the outcomes of breast reconstruction for women. By improving success rates of this procedure I hope to make a significant impact on the quality of life of all women who have had to undergo a mastectomy. An important advantage of this procedure is that it can be conducted within the same operation as the mastectomy itself. Benefits of this include:
- Less time spent in hospital due to a faster recovery time
- Less pain and discomfort
- Less chance of infection and tissue rejection
- Fewer operations needed
- Less scarring and an improved cosmetic result
- Less psychological impact