I’m not certain about other countries, but breast cancer is the most common type of cancer for women in the US. According to the American Cancer Society, roughly 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in US women in 2017 alone, and it is only surpassed by lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in women in developed countries. Statistics show that over 1.7 million new cases of breast cancer among women worldwide occurred in 2012. But here’s the good news: death rates by breast cancer seem to be dropping, thanks to better treatments and actually discovering the disease earlier through screening and increased awareness.
3D printing technology has had a hand in this – it’s been used to raise awareness for the disease, conduct research, and even increase the rate of breast cancer detection by 93%. Early diagnosis is key, and according to some statistics from the Chinese Anti-Cancer Association (CACA), which was instrumental in developing the Breast Cancer Screening Project in 2008, roughly 88% of women diagnosed with breast cancer will still be alive five years later.
3D printing has also been used to make better breast prostheses for cancer survivors out of silicone, in addition to producing prostheses that cost less. But what about 4D printing? The expanding world of 4D printing technology is basically 3D printing come to life, changing shape or moving in response to certain stimuli, and it has already been used in multiple applications, from creating load-bearing structures and biomimetic printing research to printing with enhanced composite materials and enhancing surgical preparation.
A hospital in China recently made a groundbreaking announcement – it had used 4D printing to reconstruct a new breast for a breast cancer patient. The surgery was actually performed back in August of 2016, but the hospital announced last week that the implant, which was developed by a national lab with Xi’an Jiaotong University, is doing very well.
Xi’an Jiaotong University has worked with 4D printing technology before, recently teaming up with the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Singapore University of Technology and Design to 3D print reactive, shape-shifting objects, using a newly developed 4D printing method, on a Stratasys Objet500 Connex3.
Last year, before the surgery for the 4D printed breast, the cancer patient first had a mastectomy for her left breast. According to Ling Rui, a vascular surgery doctor with the Xijing Hospital of the Fourth Military Medical University in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, the printed breast has “grown well with the patient’s own tissue.”
Ling explained, “Compared with three-dimensional printing, 4D printing adds time as another dimension.”
Before the doctors could reconstruct the patient’s breast with biodegradable materials, they had to first collect data on her original breast, and the size of her tumor. Then the 4D printed implant was developed at the university lab.
Zhang also explained that due to the implant’s porous nature, human tissue will be able to grow into the 4D printed breast and eventually replace it, which is always the outcome doctors are hoping for.
Zhang Juliang, an assistant professor with Xijing Hospital who helped with the surgery, said, “It is sufficiently strong, and will degrade in designed period of time, which is in the patient’s case one to two years.”
Ling said, “In the ten months since the surgery, the implant has grown well, and the patient’s veins and tissue have started to grow back.”
This 4D printing method, according to Ling, has fewer side effects than current breast reconstruction methods do, allowing the patient to have an easier recovery. Discuss in the 4D Printing forum at 3DPB.com.[Source: Xinhua Net]
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