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Doctors grow skin-cancer patient a new ear

We all know the severe destruction that cancer causes. Many people in New York support causes that help raise money for cancer research, and many of us have personal connections to the debilitating disease. While we wait and hope for a breakthrough in research, one story that came to light recently is worth sharing.

A few years ago, a woman in her late 30s at the time was diagnosed with skin cancer. Despite its aggressive nature, the woman fought it off. However, it returned in full force two years later, affecting mostly her head. Because of this, doctors found it necessary to remove some tissue on her skill as well as one of her ears. Now, however, thanks to an amazing procedure, she has a new, living ear and her hearing back.

The now 42-year-old woman decided that a prosthetic ear was not the right choice for her. Then doctors offered her another option. They could grow a new ear -- on her arm. By shaping cartilage from her ribs into an ear and implanting it under the skin her arm, they were able to grow a completely new ear. Just a few months later, the cartilage, nourished by blood vessels in the woman's arm, had grown its own skin. Doctors then removed it and attached it to the woman's head. The woman has a few surgeries to go before the cosmetic aspects are complete, but the new ear and a hearing aid have brought her hearing back.

This is a unique story, but shows how far science has come in finding new and innovative ways to treat patients who suffer from debilitating diseases like cancer. Many of us know someone who has suffered from cancer and know firsthand how difficult the disease can be. Many people become unable to work, which, coupled with expensive medical bills, can leave them facing serious financial struggles. For this reason, Social Security Disability Insurance exists to help these people get the treatment they need.

Source: TIME, "Surgeons Grow a Replacement Ear for Cancer Patient - On Her Arm," Samantha Grossman, Oct. 2, 2012

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