In November 2017, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse patient Moray Gallacher became the first Australian to receive a mastectomy while fully awake.
Performed by doctors Sanjay Warrier and Ryan Downey, the procedure took a little under an hour, and saw Moray up and about within days, rather than weeks, after her surgery.
As a double lung transplant recipient, Moray wouldn’t have been eligible for a surgery that usually requires general anaesthetic. When a routine breast scan found a ductal carcinoma in situ in her right breast, Moray had to make a decision.
“It was basically the choice of, okay, are the lungs going to get me first, or is the cancer going to get me first,” she says.
Breast surgeon Sanjay Warrier and anaesthetist Ryan Downey spent a year planning the surgery, drawing on research from other cases across the world.
“We had to think outside the box. How could we actually achieve what we wanted to, which was to remove the pre-cancer away, and still keep her alive?” says A/Prof Warrier.
Today, Moray is recovering well, and grateful for the team, who she says were ‘magnificent’.
While not recommended for everyone, the procedure opens doors for those who aren’t currently eligible for lifesaving surgery. “It’s nice now to know that we can do this procedure safely and with comfort for other patients like Moray,” says Dr Downey.
Head of Department, Dr Cindy Mak proudly says,“Being able to perform mastectomy under local anaesthetic allows us to treat patients who would not be fit for a general anaesthetic. It’s not for everyone, but this is a very useful technique!”