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3D Printing to Help Reconstruct Skull of Woman with Multiple Brain Tumors

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Katherine and Jason Dance

It’s one of our worse nightmares. We live a healthy life, eat right, exercise, and have a job we love, and this still doesn’t protect us from a medical tragedy that not only threatens our life, but radically alters our lifestyle and daily tasks. This is exactly what happened to Katherine Dance, from Berkshire, England, when she was scuba diving in Greece in October 2014, and found a lump on her forehead.

She brushed it off as a lump due to knocking her head, only to eventually be diagnosed with five brain tumors. One tumor outgrew her skull, and Dance is now waiting to have her skull reconstructed — with the help of 3D printing.

skull4

Dance explains her surprise when she found all of this out:

“While I was visiting relatives in the UK for a week in November last year, I booked in to get a routine eye test at the Vision Express in Basingstoke. After seeing the optometrist, she recommended me to take a blood test… I’m a very fit and active person so I never thought that this could happen to me – even if I catch a cold, it never stop me… You could definitely say it came as a surprise to be diagnosed with five brain tumors completely out of the blue. My life has been turned upside down, all my independence has been lost, and it will take me years to rebuild my life again.”

While she was floored by the news of her tumors, Dance and her husband rallied and met the challenge head on. One operation to remove a large tumor that had outgrown Dance’s skull was supposed to take 6 hours, but took 14 instead. This tumor was cancerous, while several of her other tumors were not, and she has missing bone in her skull that needs to be replaced.

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Frequently, a plate is placed in the head to make up for any missing bone, but in Dance’s case, she is counting on 3D printing to help reconstruct the missing bone. Right now, Dance and her husband wait patiently for swelling to go down so she can be medically evaluated for the purpose of a 3D printed bone replacement procedure.

The prospect of having a 3D printed “safer model” of her skull to replace bone instead of a metal plate is giving Dance and her husband some encouragement at a very difficult time.

Her husband, Jason, summarizes some of the changes that the tumor diagnosis and operations has had on their lives:skull5

“It has left us both devastated beyond words. Katherine used to be such an active person, she could do 10 things at once, she had a sporty lifestyle and ran marathons, but now she struggles to even walk. She is doing very well considering she has a piece of her skull missing and is living with the effects of five tumours and having a stroke. I’m so proud of how far she has come in the past few months.”

While Dance and her husband still struggle with all of the changes caused by the unexpected five brain tumors that were discovered, 3D printing may be the best medicine yet, as the dent left in her skull can be evened out in due time using the most sophisticated medical technology around.

We’ll definitely be on the lookout for news of these 3D printing medical procedures, as we follow the story of Dance’s recovery.  Discuss this remarkable story in the 3D Printed Skull forum thread on 3DPB.com.

[Source: Daily Star/Images: Caters News Agency]

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