Woman's bravery after 10-hour cancer op

PUBLISHED: 17:09 13 May 2009 | UPDATED: 11:18 08 July 2010

A WATTON woman who had most of her jaw removed because of cancer has spoken about the remarkable operation to rebuild her face using bone from her leg.

A WATTON woman who had most of her jaw removed because of cancer has spoken about the remarkable operation to rebuild her face using bone from her leg.

Jane Aldridge's nightmare began when her dentist noticed a lump on her gum which turned out to be a cancerous tumour she had removed.

The 38-year-old mother-of-one thought she had made a full recovery but more than a decade later the cancer had spread and a large part of her jaw had to be removed.

It is was only thanks to the surgeons at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital that she was able to fully retain use of her jaw after they skilfully used bone from her calf to patch it up in a 10-hour operation.

Ms Aldridge, from Watton, said: “I thought I was clear of the cancer but 10 years after I had the lump removed it had spread over quite a lot of my face.

“It was discovered during an annual check up and I was told it was very aggressive and I would need immediate surgery.

“I had most of the jaw removed and in the same operation they took bone from my leg and built it back onto my face.

“It has been a long journey and the operation was totally amazing. I have nothing but praise for the hospital and the NHS.”

The 10-hour operation involved maxillofacial surgeon Richard James and two plastic surgeons. As well as bone from her leg being used, a temporary dental plate was inserted.

She was in hospital for just over a week and then she had years of follow up treatment.

For two years she could only eat on one side until the bone was strong enough to support dental implants - which had to be inserted incrementally since the operation in 2005, because she lost four teeth during the operation.

The final treatment was only just finished last year and Ms Aldridge, who lives with 15-year-old daughter Amy, said she has made a full recovery.

She said: “It was pretty traumatic to have major surgery done on my leg and my face at the same time but really I was so lucky that the original lump was spotted by my dentist.

“I would urge anyone with any kind abnormality in their mouth - mine was rather like a small white mouth ulcer - to get it checked out and not risk leaving it.”

Restorative dentistry consultant Adrian Slaney said that because the NNUH was a specialist centre for head and neck cancer there is a lot of experience in dealing with maxillofacial techniques.

He said: “We plan each procedure carefully using computer software and we work together to come up with designs for prostheses and devices that will work for each individual patient.

“I commend the courage of these patients because many have gone through a great deal of trauma and their reconstructive work can take years to complete.”

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