LIFESTYLE
14/09/2015 12:24 BST | Updated 14/09/2015 12:59 BST

'The Woman With No Face': Surgeons Remove 2Kg Tumour From Woman's Face In New Channel 5 Show

Warning: articles contain images of a medical nature that some readers may find upsetting

Four years ago, Tambu Makinzi began to suffer constant headaches and soon, her forehead swelled beyond recognition.

Doctors in South Africa confirmed her worst fear - she was suffering from a rare form of bone cancer, called chondrosarcoma.

The mum-of-one underwent a series of unsuccessful operations in her native country, as well as rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but doctors were unable to defeat her tumour.

After being told she only had months to live, the 27-year-old flew the 6,000 miles from Cape Town to London to be seen by specialist surgeon Professor Iain Hutchison.

Now, her remarkable story features in new Channel 5 show 'The Woman With No Face'.

the woman with no face before

Tambu Makinzi before she developed a cancerous tumour

Makinzi began to experience the extreme headaches just one year after giving birth to her daughter, Pearl, in 2011.

By 2014, the enormous 2kg tumour had destroyed the central bones in her face, caused her to go blind in one eye and robbed her of her sense of smell.

The mum contacted Hutchison directly and pleaded with him to take on her case.

Hutchison runs the research charity Saving Faces, based at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, which is dedicated to preventing and treating facial diseases.

After meeting Makinzi, the neck and head cancer specialist agreed to treat her free of charge.

woman with tumour

Tambu Makinzi after she developed the tumour

According to the NHS, chondrosarcoma is a type of bone caner that tends to affect adults aged over 40.

Treatments usually consist of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and sometimes surgery to remove the section of cancerous bone. But as Makinzi's tumour had grown into her skull, a more complex treatment was needed.

In a world-first surgical procedure, Hutchison, along with a team of surgeons including a neurosurgeon and an orthodontist, set about removing the growth.

The tumour was removed in one, which left Makinzi with a huge gap, exposing her brain.

A flap of skin was taken from her back to fill in the gap in her face, and after two attempts, doctors believe they have achieved a working blood supply.

"There is a distinct risk of her dying if the flap fails. The last time I had a patient die as a consequence of surgery was in 1990, 25 years ago," Hutchison says in the show.

the woman with no face after op

Tambu Makinzi in recovery after two operations

Once Makinzi was stable, Hutchison and his medical team began to rebuild her features using flesh from her leg.

The surgeons also managed to save her right eye.

As well as giving Makinzi a new chance of life, the medics have enabled Makinzi's daughter to see her mum's face properly for the first time.

Tambu Makinzi's story will feature on the Channel 5 documentary 'The Woman With No Face', on Monday 14 September at 10pm.

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