Indistinguishable prosthetic changes skin cancer patient's life

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Facial prosthetics are now indistinguishable from the real thing due in part to special effects techniques.

Experts borrowing from special effects techniques used in movies are now making facial prosthetics that are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.

Henry Fiorentini lost his ear due to skin cancer, but now has a new prosthetic ear that's almost identical to his other one.

Whether playing hockey or flying high, Fiorentini lives an active lifestyle, but a few years ago a very common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, almost took his life.

"It's like, wow, there it is on a direct path to your brain. Goodbye life. It's kind of scary to say the least," Fiorentini said.

The cancer started on his right ear. Fiorentini lost his hearing and his ear. Despite multiple surgeries, the cancer remained, along with a mass of scar tissue.

"No one else in the country really wanted to do his surgery," Dr. Sam Marzo of the Loyola University Health System in Chicago said.

Marzo says Henry risked paralysis if his facial nerve was cut, but Marzo successfully removed the cancer, and with advances in prosthetics you'd never know what Fiorentini had been through.

"If you think about the special effects industry in movies, those kind of materials are now available for patients," Marzo said.

Easily removable, Fiorentini's ear is made of silicone. From birthmarks to blood vessels, his ear looks just like the other.

"Let me tell you, nobody can tell that this is a false ear," Fiorentini said.

The silicone prosthetic ears last from three to five years. Marzo says 3D printers and scanners are on the horizon to quickly create an exact mirror image prosthetic when the ears need to be replaced.

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