CANCER survivor Melvyn Mansell is thankful to still be here today, almost one year after doctors successfully rebuilt his tongue during an operation to remove a tumour.

However, the 74-year-old says the procedure has now left him with an unsightly side-effect with his new tongue now sprouting black hairs.

Surgeons at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford used tissue from the former hair dresser's arm to rebuild the organ during the operation in March last year.

And while ultimately grateful to have undergone the life-saving surgery, Mr Mansell said he is struggling to cope with the thought of having to 'pluck or trim' his tongue for the rest of life, with hair removal treatment not provided on the NHS.

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The pensioner, who lives in Headington with his wife, Chalao, said: "I'm getting used to the scars and the almost constant pain in my neck, I know I'll have to live with that for the rest of my life.

"But I think they should provide the laser treatment. They just said I could go private or pluck them or trim them.

"I can't afford private treatment I'm on pension credit."

Oxford Mail:

Mr Mansell, who had to learn to speak again following the operation, was told the hair removal treatment was considered a cosmetic procedure and as a result would not be funded by the NHS.

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He said: "I told them it isn't just cosmetic - I'm losing sleep over it. Sometimes I'm waking up in the middle of the night feeling like there's something in my mouth and I have to go and trim it at 2am.

"They told me it's very rare for this to happen - it might be rare but that doesn't change the fact that I've got hair growing out of my tongue."

The NHS policy states in general it does not offer procedures to change aspects of a person's appearance though patients can apply for individual funding in exceptional cases.