Tissue transplant a first for local breast cancer surgery

SURGEONS in Warrnambool have made a local breakthrough in medical treatment for women suffering breast cancer, using body tissue for the first time in reconstructive surgery. 

In what is thought to be a first for country Victoria, surgeons at St John of God Hospital successfully used abdomen tissue to reconstruct the right breast of a patient earlier this month. 

It’s hoped the procedure will be offered as an alternative to using breast implants that can lead to complications over time. 

“We’ve done it for trauma reconstruction before but really it’s the first time that sort of thing (breast reconstruction) has been done outside of Melbourne, it’s a first for country Victoria,” plastic reconstructive surgeon Robert Toma told The Standard. 

“What we’re aiming to do is provide better service for the whole south-west community. The aim is that we perform the operation more regularly.” 

Until the surgeon’s arrival in the south-west two years ago, women had to travel to either Geelong or Melbourne for all reconstructive procedures. 

Yan Cilia was diagnosed with breast cancer four-and-half years ago and had hoped to undergo the operation after her breast was removed.

“I always wanted to do breast reconstruction from day one. I wasn’t scared. I was more excited. Eventually I was going to do it,” Ms Cilia said. 

“We didn’t have to do it straight away, you do it when you’re ready to do it.” 

Ms Cilia, who is married with a seven year old son is still fighting the disease. 

But she is defiant and optimistic.

“I’m still battling cancer — but cancer does not own me, I try to live my own life,” she said. 

“Everything is under control and under the doctors observation so it’s stabilised.

“Breast reconstruction is just a way to give me more self esteem to lead my normal life.” 

The operation took more than six hours to complete using Mr Toma and a medical team. 

Mr Toma said the hospital had been waiting for the right patient to start the procedure, with staffing and funding already in place at the private hospital. 

“Yan was simply the right patient and she was keen on the procedure,” he said. 

St John of God hospital chief executive Dr Glen Power hailed the procedure as a breakthrough for the region. 

We’re very excited to be able to offer this level of high acuity complex breast reconstruction — it’s great the surgeon, Mr Toma is able to provide that service,” Dr Power said.

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