This woman miraculously had her missing jaw regrown by 9cm after suffering from cancer
Even though it's a topic that many of us find difficult to talk about, cancer seems to be an oft-discussed subject in the media. And yet, despite its prevalence, there are still so many things we don't mention when we talk about the disease - the main one being the symptoms.
Depending on what type of cancer a person has, the symptoms can vary from anything as simple as increased fatigue to something as drastic as a lost limb; and even people who recover from the illness still end up with lifelong damage as a result.
One such person is Val Blunden, a 55-year-old woman from the UK who lost her bottom jaw after a battle with mouth cancer.
In 2016, Blunden had part of her jaw removed in a successful attempt to get rid of her cancer, but was left with other problems as a result. After undergoing the operation, the former postwoman was left with restricted speech abilities and could no longer eat without the use of a feeding tube.
She said that her battle with the disease had made her "a different person", and that her life was understandably shaken up by the change.
"I used to be quite outgoing," she explained. "I was a post lady before, I loved my job. I've had to pretty much stop everything."
However, doctors hadn't given up on Blunden's quality of life, and were willing to try out pioneering new techniques in order to reconstruct her jaw. Unfortunately, the first two tries failed - but, using a procedure called "distraction osteogenesis", surgeons were able to encourage bone regrowth in the damaged area.
In fact, in just three months, Blunden has seen 9cm (3.5 inches) of regrowth.
This unprecedented result is the first of its kind in the UK, and was previously considered so risky that it wasn't immediately given the go-ahead. In fact, Blunden's consultant surgeon, Dilip Srinivasan, had to convince the hospital to prioritize her surgery because it wasn't considered to be "a matter of life or death".
"From a patient's perspective you can't go out, you can't go out of your house. It is urgent. She is a cancer patient, she was treated for cancer," he said. "It doesn't matter what it was, what she is now is important, and what she is now is someone who is suffering. If medicine isn't about treating people who are suffering then what is it about?"
As part of the surgery, Blunden was fitted with a special frame - described as a sort of scaffolding - in order to support her jaw. This will have to stay in place for another month or so in order to allow the new bones to continue to grow and strengthen, but already she has seen improvements.
With any luck, once Blunden has recovered, she will be back to her old, outgoing self. Of course, her jaw will never return to what it once was, but - by the looks of the progress made in this case - we can hope that other patients with similar conditions will be able to receive successful treatments in the future.