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Eyebrow transplant for man who lost part of his face to cancer

A man from Cambridgeshire who lost part of his face to cancer has had an eyebrow transplant - the latest of tens of operations to reconstruct his face.

Josh Stephenson at The Wimpole Clinic ahead of his eyebrow transplant Credit: ITV News Anglia

Josh Stephenson from Huntingdon was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, or skin cancer, in 2009. It spread from his eye socket through his face, and then to other parts of his body. Just last Christmas he had to have part of his liver removed, as it had become cancerous.

Josh has undergone tens of operations to remove the cancer and reconstruct his face Credit: Josh Stephenson

Josh lost his left eye, and much of his left jaw and cheek bone during treatment, which included radiotherapy and chemotherapy. He also lost some of his hair, including his eyebrows which have not grown back. Josh is now cancer free, but needs scans every three months to check it has not returned.

Scan showing the amount of bone missing from the left side of Josh's face Credit: Josh Stephenson

Before his illness, Josh was a fashion designer who worked for luxury brands in London, but due has had to give up work. He now does talks, and works with the charity Saving Faces which raises awareness and promotes research into facial diseases.

Josh before he was diagnosed with cancer Credit: Josh Stephenson

Now he has undergone an eyebrow transplant to replace the eyebrow hair he lost during treatment. He hopes that it will take him another step towards getting his confidence back.

"It will be good to have eyebrows again, you know they kind of frame the eyes and I think I will be more confident. I'm very lucky that I have hair and glasses and a fringe... however I feel like I'm hiding myself behind that."

– Josh Stephenson - Eyebrow transplant patient

The surgery was carried out at The Wimpole Clinic in Central London, which specializes in hair transplants. The surgical team remove a patch of hair and tissue from the back of the patient's head, then carefully extract each individual hair from the tissue. They have to work quickly, as if the roots dry out or are damaged the hairs may die soon after surgery.

Next they make tiny slits in the patient's eyebrows, and place in each individual hair. With about 500 hairs going in each eyebrow it is a lengthy procedure, and can take more than six hours.

Josh in surgery Credit: ITV News Anglia

"Each little graft has to be placed, and these are single hairs so they're quite delicate... It just needs every member of the team carrying out their bit meticulously, the cutters not damaging those little grafts, the incisions - making them correctly angled and directed - then finally placing (the hairs), and all this goes together with some artistry."

– Michael May - Lead surgeon at The Wimpole Clinic
Josh meeting surgeon Michael May Credit: ITV News Anglia

It will take a few months for the swelling and bruising to go down completely, but the surgical team say Josh's transplant has gone well and Josh is thrilled with the initial results.

"I've got eyebrows again. I can see they're very swollen, or my eyelids are very swollen but it's absolutely fantastic."

– Josh Stephenson

Click below to watch a report from ITV News Anglia's Olivia Paterson