Pig tissue used in breast surgery at Southmead Hospital

Breast cancer patients in Bristol are being offered new reconstruction treatment using tissue from pigs.

The procedure at the city's Southmead Hospital enables patients to have reconstruction at the same time as their breast is removed.

The traditional procedure uses a tissue expander like a balloon to gradually create the space for an implant to be inserted at a later date.

Breast surgeon Simon Cawthorn said they had treated about 40 women this way.

The pig tissue is grafted on to the bottom of the muscle underneath the breast following a mastectomy.

Mr Cawthorn said: "We have had very few complications and [the patients] are very pleased.

"It is now offered as a routine procedure as part of the treatment offered with the plastic surgeons here."

'Small tumours'

The treatment was initially made available for patients in Bristol with a funding grant from the Breast Cancer Unit Support Trust (Bust).

It is hoped its success will allow further treatment to be made available on the NHS in future.

The treatment was first pioneered in the United States at the turn of the millennium and has gradually been introduced at hospitals across parts of the UK.

Mr Cawthorn said: "All of the animal DNA is taken out of the tissue, it is safe and our patients like it.

"It is treatment best suited to small tumours, picked up early, on women with busts up to a C or D cup.

"Some patients tend not to want to take tissue from other parts of their body, so this is a good alternative.

"I think this is the beginning of more exciting developments."

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