Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 18th 2013 Contents B28
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, November 18, 2013
Identical twins Kelly McCarthy and Kristen Mau-
rer have shared a lot in their lives so when one was
diagnosed with breast cancer, she urged the other
to get tested, too.
"You just do everything together, don t you," the
doctor told Maurer before delivering the bad news
that she, too, had the disease.
Now the 34-year-old twins from Crown Point,
Indiana, are sharing a medical rarity: Maurer donated
skin and fat tissue for McCarthy s breast reconstruc-
"It wasn t a question, she didn t have to ask me,"
said Maurer, a college enrollment counsellor. "Having
a twin is very like having a child. You would do any-
thing for them ... in a heartbeat."
The first successful organ transplant was between
identical twins in Boston
in 1954 and involved a
Since then, identical
twins have been involved
in many other transplant
operations, involving kid-
neys and other organs,
bone marrow, and stem
cells. But breast recon-
struction between iden-
tical twins has only been
done a handful of times;
Maurer and McCarthy, a
nurse, are among the youngest patients.
Identical twins are ideal donors because their skin,
tissue and organs are perfect genetic matches,
explained Dr David Song, chief of plastic and recon-
structive surgery at the University of Chicago Medical
Center. And that eliminates the need for anti-rejection
medicine, he said.
Song performed the twins surgeries on last Tuesday
and both fared well.
Typically, breast reconstruction surgery involves
implants and/or a woman s own tissue, sometimes
taken from the abdomen, thighs or buttocks. But
McCarthy is among women who don t have enough
extra tissue; plus, radiation treatment damaged tissue
near her breasts. So Maurer offered to be a donor.
McCarthy said her sister s sacrifice, "just so I can
feel better about myself ... is really humbling."
With their blonde bobs, sparkling brown eyes and
easy, engaging smiles, the twins are clearly mirror
images of each other. Discovering breast cancer in
identical twins isn t unusual because of their exact
genetic makeup, Song said. With twins, there s also
often a "mirroring effect," with breast cancer devel-
oping in the opposite breast, he said. That s what
happened with McCarthy and Maurer.
While their mother died from colon cancer last
year, there was no family history of breast cancer.
McCarthy was diagnosed first, in December 2011,
with triple-negative breast cancer, a hard-to-treat
form of cancer whose growth is not fuelled by hor-
mones. She was nine months pregnant and her son
was born a week later. Soon after she started treat-
ment, chemotherapy, surgery to remove her right
breast, and radiation.
Maurer was diagnosed with a very early-stage
cancer in her left breast a few months after her sis-
ter.Maurer had a double mastectomy, recommended
because her sister s cancer was so aggressive, but
she didn t need chemotherapy or radiation. She had
reconstruction with implants after the birth of her
second child last March.
McCarthy s operation this week involved a second
Identical twins share
cancer and rare surgery
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
mastectomy, and reconstruction of both breasts.
Some of her own tissue was used to fashion one
breast. At the same time, surgeons essentially per-
formed a "tummy tuck" on Maurer, removing lower
abdominal skin and fat tissue and transplanted it to
her sister to create a second new breast.
The twins have always been extremely close, some-
times speaking in unison or completing each other s
sentences. But now, McCarthy said, "I feel closer.
Her tissue is over my heart." (AP)
In this photo taken last Monday, identical twins Kristen Maurer, left, and Kelly
McCarthy at Kelly's mother-in-law's house in Beecher, Ill. The 34-year-old sisters
from Crown Point, Indiana, have shared a lot in their lives so when Kelly was
diagnosed with breast cancer, she urged Kristen to get tested, too. AP PHOTO
"Kelly was more
upset than I was
diagnosed I was
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