3D printing has a lot of promise when it comes to the future of the medical field, but don’t think all the innovations are years down the line. Quite the opposite: many are being put into use today, especially when it comes to the treatment of cancer patients. Forbes recently detailed some of the ways doctors are using 3D printing technology to provide more accurate, effective care for those diagnosed with cancer, and we’d like to highlight a few.
One amazing way doctors are using 3D printing to provide better treatment is in surgery. Unfortunately, surgery is a reality for many cancer patients, as surgeons are sometimes tasked with operating on a patient to remove cancerous tissue. Some of these surgeries can be incredibly high risk, taking place around delicate areas where even the smallest mistake can mean the difference between life and death. In these circumstances, it’s helpful for surgeons to prepare and practice prior to surgery, and 3D printing enables these surgeons to print 3D replicas of a patient and their organs so they can decide how best to proceed with their operation.
There are also situations where the mere act of finding the cancer can be a challenge, and 3D printing can help here, too. Combined with patient data, doctors can use a 3D printed model to locate the source of a patient’s cancer and decide on the next course of action.
It’s a life-saving use of 3D printers and one that will only continue to grow as more medical professionals are trained on the required hardware and software.
An unfortunate side effect of cancer, and the surgeries it can sometimes necessitate is the need for reconstructive surgery. For example, those who develop mouth cancer may need to have portions of their jaw removed, which then requires that portion of their face to be rebuilt in order to reacquire normal use of their mouth. 3D printing can help surgeons facing these types of procedures in two ways. First, there are plastic surgeons now using 3D printing in conjunction with polymers to craft parts for their surgeries, using these parts as “replacements” in those who need to have areas removed due to cancer. Doctors are also using 3D printing to assist with the replacement of bone by using 3D printed models to serve as “templates,” of sorts, carving new bones while studying the models to improve accuracy.
There is a host of other ways 3D printing has made its way into the care process for cancer patients, being used for everything from the tablets a patient takes as part of a medication regimen to the valves implanted in a patient’s heart during a procedure. The possibilities seem endless, and the medical community, which has already found so many ways to use 3D printing technology, seems excited at what the future might bring.