Nov 8, 2015 | By Benedict

After undergoing life-saving brain surgery, a British diving instructor has turned to 3D printing to help reconstruct part of her skull. Katherine Dance, 42, originally from Binfield, Berkshire but now living in Greece, discovered a lump on her forehead whilst scuba-diving in the Mediterranean country in October 2014. Dance was initially unconcerned, and presumed that she had simply bumped her head. Unfortunately for the aquatics expert, the truth turned out to be far more shocking.

In November, Dance returned to England for a week to visit relatives, taking no further interest in the innocuous lump. This was until her optometrist in Basingstoke noticed some unusual symptoms. The Vision Express employee advised Dance to see her doctor for blood tests, a CT scan, and an MRI scan, and after returning to Greece to do so, the diving instructor learned the devastating truth.

Three weeks after undergoing tests, Dance was informed by doctors that she had not one, not two, but five tumours in her head. The Briton was devastated, and feared for her life. "It was awful. What started as a bump on my head led to me finding out I'd got five brain tumours,” Dance recalled. “I used to scuba-dive every day so I assumed it was just a bash on the head but to be told I would never live in the same way again just ruined my life.”

The CT and MRI scans revealed that Dance had three tumours on the left side of her brain, and two on the right. After a preliminary CT scan revealed worrying initial signs, Dance endured a stressful Christmas of uncertainty, before undergoing a conclusive MRI scan. "On New Year's Eve, the local hospital here in Greece conducted the MRI which proved the presence of tumours,” Dance explained.

Despite the extreme seriousness of the discovery, Dance revealed that things could have been far worse. "If the tumours had not been found so early, the first I would have known about it could have been as a seizure. If this were to have happened whilst I was teaching underwater, it could have well proved to have been fatal.”

Two weeks after the MRI scan, the scuba diver underwent a risky operation to have the tumours removed and tested for cancer. During the operation, surgeons discovered further complications which meant that the six hour operation ended up taking closer to fourteen hours. "The hospital found a brain surgeon that could do the work and once he got inside my head, he found that the tumour had grown outside of my skull,” the patient explained. “The one at the front right side of my brain had grown at such an accelerated rate,… the original six hour procedure took fourteen hours.”

The ordeal has had a colossal impact on the lives of both Dance and her husband Jason, who expressed support and sympathy for his wife. ”It has left us both devastated beyond words,” Jason confessed. ”Katherine used to be such an active person, she could do 10 things at once, she had a sporty lifestyle and ran marathons, but now she struggles to even walk. She is doing very well considering she has a piece of her skull missing and is living with the effects of five tumours and having a stroke. I'm so proud of how far she has come in the past few months.”

This accelerated tumour transpired to be the most lethal of the quintet, being the only cancerous one of the bunch. The tumour has now been removed, but there remains a missing piece of bone in Dance’s skull where the surgeons had to operate. Rather than opt for a metal plate, Dance is looking to 3D printing technology to fill in the missing piece. By using 3D images collected from scans, medical professionals could provide a tailor-made implant for Dance, which would protect her brain and cause minimal physiological disturbance.

A 3D printed bone replacement is currently the most effective way of using 3D printing technology to aid patients like Dance. However, scientific developments mean that patients could soon benefit from additive manufacturing techniques in entirely new ways. 3D printing experts in Perth, Australia recently revealed that they had been 3D printing stem cells in order to regrow patient skull tissue. In a few years, this could well be standard medical procedure for bone reconstruction. For now, we wish Dance the speediest of recoveries, and hope that 3D printing can provide an adequate solution to her problems.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive