A plastic surgeon has saved a woman’s life after her double chin was diagnosed as a deadly tumour
A plastic surgeon has saved a woman’s life after discovering her double chin was in fact a deadly tumour.
Natasha Walters, 45, from Colchester, Essex, was horrified when her first pregnancy left her with a double chin – and despite losing weight and exercising, it wouldn’t budge.
Desperate to regain her confidence, Natasha turned to plastic surgery but her consultation led to tests that revealed her chin wasn’t excess fatty tissue.
Natasha had a tongue arteriovenous malformations (AVM) – a rare, abnormal tangling of the blood vessels which disrupts blood flow – causing her to develop a tumour-like mass on her tongue and across the floor of her mouth.
The mum-of-two underwent a six-hour operation five months ago, where half her tongue was removed as the fist-sized tumour was finally taken out.
Natasha, for the first time in 15 years, feels confident in photographs again without feeling conscious and worrying that her AVM – which would often start bleeding from her tongue – will embarrass her.
After being in an induced coma for five days after her op, Natasha was allowed home after 11 days and is now back working.
Natasha, who works at Barclays bank, said: “I first realised I’d developed a double chin after having my eldest son, George.
“It didn’t matter how often I exercised or lost weight, my chin wouldn’t budge.
“I decided to book a consultation with a plastic surgeon and that’s when I was told it wasn’t fatty tissue and that I should go to the doctors for further tests.
“By this point I also had an 8cm lump on my tongue and I began to worry it was something sinister.
“It was a huge shock when I was diagnosed with a tongue AVM. I was told it was best to leave untouched unless it started to suffocate me or that it bled.”
After giving birth to her youngest son, Charlie, 10, five years later, the tumour grew further – it made Natasha extremely tired as it restricted her airway when she slept.
But it wasn’t until 2014 that it started to bleed and spray blood from her tongue.
Natasha added: “The first time it happened I was terrified as I thought I was bleeding to death.
“Luckily I was able to stop it each time after about 15 minutes, but there was a huge risk that one day it would not stop.
“Tests revealed that the previous procedure which blocked the blood supply to the tumour in my chin was not successful and my AVM was getting worse – surgery was now my only option.
“The operation was booked at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea in March and even though I was terrified, I knew I had no other choice.
“I’m so pleased with the results, for the first time in 15 years I feel confident again – but the best thing of all is that it does not bleed and I do not feel sick and tired anymore.”
Natasha had never heard of facial AVMs before her diagnosis but doctors have explained she was born with the rare condition – something that was spurred on by pregnancy hormones.
Natasha has been left with a large scar across her neck and has been having speech therapy, but she knows it’s a small price to pay to have her life back.
She said: “My husband Terry, 44, has been so supportive throughout, and thanks to him and my boys, George and Charlie, I was able to keep fighting against my AVM, even on my darkest of days.
“I’m so happy with the results of my operation and feel the best physically and mentally that I have in years.
“I would recommend anyone with a facial AVM to seek advice about getting it removed – surgeons are confident mine won’t grow again as they were able to remove all of it, although a MRI scan in November will hopefully confirm this.
“To anyone reading my story who has recently been diagnosed, I hope it allows them to see there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
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