We often hear about how 3D printed medical models can help surgeons plan out complex surgeries ahead of time, as well as being an educational tool for medical students. 3D printed tumor models are especially helpful, as they can be used to give doctors a much better idea of what they’ll be up against in the operating room; they can also be used to develop more effective cancer treatments. But 3D printed tumors can also help patients more fully understand what is going on inside their bodies as they prepare to undergo scary, complex surgeries.
“The idea of printing out something that’s as scary as a tumor into its concrete form was something that spoke to me – there is something very liberating about that idea,” Lekman said last year.
If a patient is nervous about a surgery to remove a tumor, it can help to physically hold the tumor model in their hands ahead of time, and also a point of triumph for them if they survive – look at this thing that used to be inside of my body, and I beat it.
This is why high school students Ella Pace and Madeline Scott, part of the “EAST” program at Hot Springs World Class High School in Arkansas, wanted to 3D print a replica of a patient’s tumor for her post-surgery.
“You’re going through a serious situation, you don’t know what’s going on, it’s hard to understand,” said Pace, a freshman. “With the tumors, [patients] can become a bit more familiar with their situation.”
According to Stephanie Bennett of KATV, thanks to their tumor project, called Cerebral Studies, the two students have become the first people in the state to successfully 3D print a brain tumor.
The school district’s mission is to make sure that every student has the necessary skills and ethical standards of integrity to compete in society, while the high school gives them a positive climate to enhance their personal development and attain a high quality education and marketable skills.
Pace and Scott want to achieve real experience in the medical field, and had the opportunity to sit in on Nancy Foris’ brain surgery four months ago. After the experience, they decided to take it further and 3D print an exact replica of the tumor for Foris, in order to give her a psychological sense of empowerment. But they don’t want to stop after this tumor.
“At any age, finding out that you have cancer or a tumor in general–it’s scary. It’s hard to wrap your mind around,” explained Scott, who is a junior. “So if we can give them [patients] something to show them that ‘this is what’s in your head, this is what’s inside of you,’ it can give them a better sense of their current situation.”
The students are planning on using their newfound 3D printing skills in the pediatrics field, and have a goal of getting to the point where they are able to 3D print tumor replicas pre-surgery, to give patients a better understanding of what’s happening inside their bodies. Additionally, surgeons can better visualize the vascularity of tumors using 3D printed models.
Last week, the months-long project finally came to an end as Scott and Pace met Foris at the doctor’s office to present her with an exact 3D printed replica of the tumor that used to be inside her brain.
Holding the tumor model in her hand, Foris said, “I was thinking it was maybe, [the size of a pinky], no, it’s a little larger than a pinky.”
Foris is glad to be alive, and grateful that the girls were so dedicated to the project. But the project was a difficult one to complete.
EAST Facilitator John Stokes said, “They have experienced failure; they have also experienced drastic success, and it better prepares them for the future.”
Pace and Scott aren’t done yet, and for the next step of their medical 3D printing journey, the two will be attending the Winter Clinics symposium for neurosurgeons, taking place next month in Colorado.
To see the inspirational story of the 3D printed brain tumor for yourself, check out the video on KATV.
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