Cancer patients who have a facial disfigurement because of the disease can find the change in their appearance distressing to cope with. AASMA DAY finds out about new electronic colour matching equipment at Royal Preston Hospital which aims to improve life for those needing facial prosthesis.
When people want to paint their living room the exact same shade as their sofa, they can pop along to their DIY store and use their colour matching service.
Cancer patients can now benefit from similar technology to restore their appearance following a disfigurement by having a prosthesis exactly matched to their skin tone.
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, which runs the Royal Preston Hospital and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals, has a new electronic skin colour matching equipment which is improving care for cancer patients who have a facial disfigurement.
Around 30 patients a year who are battling cancers that cause facial disfigurement benefit from a prosthesis to restore their appearance.
Brendan McPhillips, consultant maxillofacial technologist at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, explains: “The equipment at our maxillofacial laboratory works in a similar way to the colour matching systems used in DIY stores and enables our technologists to quickly and accurately match the patient’s skin tone, and so produce a prosthesis that is much more realistic.
“Previously this process required the technologist to match the colour by eye so this new process is more scientific. It takes just 10 minutes to reach a natural skin tone which significantly reduces appointment times and gives our patients a better experience and result.”
Jeyaram Srinivasan, consultant plastic surgeon, adds: “When patients are first diagnosed with cancer, their immediate focus is on their treatment and getting well.
“However, surgery to the head and face can create some disfigurement which can be discomforting and create anxiety about appearance.
“A realistic prosthesis can help cancer patients in the recovery process.”
Bert Eastham, 65, who lives in Chorley, was diagnosed with two cancerous tumours in his nose in March 2009.
He had to undergo an eight hour operation to remove his whole nose and top lip, followed by radiotherapy treatment.
Bert was given the all-clear in June 2009 and has had reconstructive surgery.
The former engineer says he was heckled by youths in the street after the operation.
Grandad Bert hit the headlines last year when he was due to tell his inspirational story on This Morning but was contacted by producers to tell him they had decided not to feature him during the school holidays when children may be watching – they thought he might scare them.
The cruel snub prompted widespread criticism, even from presenter Philip Schofield, who took to Twitter to voice his opposition.
Bert later appeared on This Morning with Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield.
Bert was given a magnetic nose last year and says the new colour matching kit had made it look more natural.
Bert says: “I have only had my prosthetic nose for the last nine months and at first the consultant just had to try and match the skin colour by sight. It was really hit and miss.
“This new piece of kit is fantastic and now my nose looks so natural. They have even put small veins in it.
“I feel so much more confident now and people who don’t know me have no idea that I have a false nose.
“It’s vital patients are able to rebuild their lives and confidence after going through such a traumatic time. Now I’m not reminded of it every time I look in the mirror.”
The new equipment, which is the gold standard and the only one in the North West, was funded by a donation of £1,345 from the Rosemere Cancer Centre.
Sue Thompson from Rosemere Cancer Centre says: “This equipment is a great development and will make a real difference to patients who are recovering from cancer.
“The kit is of the highest standard and makes what used to be a long, laborious process totally dependent on the experience and eye of the individual clinician for success into a quick, accurate means of producing a more authentic looking prosthesis.
“This is so important when people are trying to pick up their lives again after treatment.”
Karen Partington, chief executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, says: “As a regional centre of excellence for cancer care and plastics, we are pleased to be able to provide the latest technology that will improve the experience of cancer patients following surgery.
“I would like to thank the Rosemere Cancer Centre for its generous donation and continued support.”