- Alison Hough went to her GP with cold symptoms after returning from holiday
- The 59-year-old was devastated when further tests revealed she had cancer
A grandmother-of-five who was diagnosed with a rare cancerous nose tumour had her life saved after surgeons printed 3D a model of her face.
Alison Hough, from Audley in Staffordshire, went to her GP with cold-like symptoms after returning from holiday in Tenerife but was told she probably had a sinus infection.
The 59-year-old was devastated when further tests at Royal Stoke University Hospital revealed she had a rare form of cancer and she was given only weeks to live.
However, specialists were able to use a print of her face to plan the removal of the tumour and the reconstruction of some of her features following the operation.
The procedure was a success, with Ms Hough being declared cancer-free. She said she is now ‘living her best life’.
Alison Hough (pictured before her diagnosis, left, and after surgery, right), from Audley in Staffordshire, went to her GP with cold-like symptoms after returning from holiday in Tenerife but was told she probably had a sinus infection
Specialists were able to use a print of her face (pictured) to plan the removal of the tumour and the reconstruction of some of her features following the operation.
Ms Hough said: ‘There is no gift I could ever give that would be enough to say thank you to them.
‘They’ve given me that chance to see my grandchildren, to see my daughter get married and be there.
‘I’m living my best life. I don’t feel like I need to do anything, go on holiday to Barbados, or travel the world – I’m just enjoying my life as it is.’
The mother-of-three said her first signs of illness ‘just felt like I had a cold’.
She said: ‘I thought it was down to the plane flight. Cancer never went into my mind, I just assumed I would be ok.
How did 3D printing help?
Surgeons at Royal Stoke University Hospital said Ms Hough’s treatment would have been classed as inoperable at many other hospitals.
However, the hospital had just introduced 3D printing.
This allowed medics to print a model of her face and see the extent of the tumour and gave doctors the confidence that they had the expertise to operate.
Ms Hough had to undergo multiple types of detailed scans for the 3D model to be created.
‘When I got home, it was a bit of a nuisance and then I ended up with one blocked nostril. I couldn’t breathe properly. I felt exhausted eating.
‘I’d eat a small amount and would feel tired. I went to my GP and they diagnosed me with sinusitis and gave me antibiotics and a nasal spray.’
Ms Hough ‘kept going back’ to her GP when her condition didn’t improve.
She then developed a posterior nosebleed — one that occurs deep inside the nose and causes heavy bleeding that can flow down the throat.
Her husband called 999 and paramedics told her to go back to her GP again.
She said: ‘Eventually I got a referral for a CT scan. I just went along with things. I think I knew subconsciously it was something serious but I just didn’t let myself believe it.
Medics spotted a polyp growing in her nose and took a biopsy. Four days later, in 2016, medics diagnosed her with adenocarcinoma of the nose.
The cancer develops in the glands that line the nasal cavity. Surgery and radiotherapy are the go-to treatments.
‘It was complete devastation. I didn’t feel angry, or “why me?” I just felt terribly sad, hopeless and deflated really,’ Ms Hough said.
Surgeons found that the tumour had spread into Ms Hough’s brain cavity, which made it difficult to operate on.
The surgery would involve the whole craniofacial region, which is vital for breathing, movement, sight, hearing, smell and taste.
However, the Royal Stoke University Hospital, where Ms Hough was receiving care, had just introduced 3D printing.
The 3D model of her face (pictured) helped medics better understand the extent of the tumour and to help with reconstructing her features after surgery
Ms Hough (pictured before surgery) has been cancer-free since 2018 and a minor operation on her lip is all she needs to complete her treatment
A short film was produced to highlight her life-saving surgery to help raise money for the UHNM charity, which helps fund equipment for the hospital. She added: ‘The work at UHNM is absolutely amazing and I am so grateful for the care I received’
This allowed surgeons to print a 3D model of her face, based on detailed scans, to better understand the extent of the tumour and to help with reconstructing her features after surgery.
Ms Hough added: ‘It gave me a renewed sense that I might survive. I felt positive that I’d been given the option to have an opportunity.’
Daya Gahir, a head, neck and maxillofacial surgeon at the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM), said the op was challenging but successful because of the level of planning the printing allowed them to do.
He said: ‘The factor at that point was the extent of the tumour into the brain.
‘In a lot of units this would have definitely been deemed inoperable and she would have probably have been having palliative treatment.
‘But we were very fortunate at the time we had the latest technology and that was 3D printing.
‘We found it very beneficial. We could print a model of the face and see the extent of the tumour.’
Ms Hough has been cancer-free since 2018 and a minor operation on her lip is all she needs to complete her treatment.
A short film was produced to highlight her life-saving surgery to help raise money for the UHNM charity, which helps fund equipment for the hospital.
She added: ‘The work at UHNM is absolutely amazing and I am so grateful for the care I received.’