Improving surgical outcomes for breast cancer patients

Dr Ozge Akbulut and researchers

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. Surgical treatment of breast cancer can have a significant impact on a woman's body and self-identity. A patient's physical and mental wellbeing depends on the medical and aesthetic success of the surgery.

Researchers have developed an innovative and cost-effective model to train surgeons in oncoplastic techniques where surgeons can simulate retaining the healthy tissue as much as possible while removing tumours from breast cancer patients. This breast-conserving approach was found to affect women positively.

Surgitate's breast model offers a tactile platform that responds realistically to surgical interventions and allows surgeons to practice modern oncoplastic techniques at their own pace for better patient outcomes.

In collaboration with leading training organisations, Surgitate contributed to the education of more than 1500 surgeons. It has also delivered a breast cancer awareness campaign, working with more than 60 companies to place information boards with hands-on breast models in women's bathrooms to remind women to check their own bodies and show them what to look for. So far, they have reached more than 1000 women and four women have been early diagnosed through interactions with these boards.

Connecting to medical professionals in the UK and other entrepreneurs through the Leaders in Innovation Fellowships programme has helped the team further develop and market their products and contributed significantly to their business plan.

Half of the 1.7 million annual breast cancer cases worldwide occur in under-resourced settings with no or limited access to oncoplasty. The next step is to establish a programme, for the first time, which combines the benefits of the physical model with an online platform and state-of-the-art digital performance assessment techniques. This would enable surgeons in these settings to access world-class training and expert advice from anywhere in the world.

These breast models provide an excellent platform for learning and understanding the 3D principles of a range of modern oncoplastic breast procedures in the safety of the laboratory setting. They are a really useful addition to the modern skills lab, and to small group teaching in this rapidly expanding field.

Dr Richard Rainsbury, Co-chair of the International Forum of the Association of Breast Surgery, Past President of the Association of Breast Surgery

Design and fabrication of synthetic tissue and organ models for surgical training

Project leads: Dr Ozge Akbulut, Sabanci University, Turkey

Delivery partners: Royal Academy of Engineering, UK and the Scientific and Technological Research Council, Turkey

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