Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=220888
Story Retrieval Date: 4/15/2014 11:20:27 PM CST

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“Ice ball” can freeze and remove breast cancer tumors

by Emily Nelson
May 1, 2013


Cryoablation uses extreme cold in a new technique to freeze out tumors in breast cancer patients.

Treatment involves inserting a probe into the area containing the lump or tumor and using the attached “ice ball” to freeze and remove the targeted tissue. The treatment is an in office procedure and takes only about 10 minutes to perform.

The procedure could replace surgical lumpectomies and mastectomies that are more intrusive for the patients, leaving scars and requiring downtime to heal.   

Dr. Cary S. Kaufman, at Bellingham Regional Breast Center, and the clinical professor of surgery at University of Washington in Seattle, revealed the promising findings in Chicago Wednesday. Breast tumor ablation techniques are being used to treat lumps and cancerous breast tumors in clinical trials.  

Kaufman presented on the new developments at the 14th Annual Meeting for the American Society of Breast Surgeons that runs through Friday at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers downtown.

“Things have changed. The size of breast cancer tumors have gone down significantly,” Kaufman said.  He added that smaller tumors yield the possibility of new techniques like cyroablation that target specific areas of the breast and are minimally invasive.

“It is a very easily tolerated procedure,” Kaufman said.   

However, the patient should be aware that she could still feel palpable, or lumpy tissue in the breast after treatment.

“There’s a lot of bad press out there saying that the palpable lesion isn’t gone,” Kaufman said. “It may take a while to go away.  The patient needs to be told that you’re not going to have no lump there.”

Kaufman said the main issue with the procedure is not the cyroablation procedure, but rather proper imaging of the area where the tumor is located. “We need to know where the cancer is.  That’s why imaging is so important,” he said.

Another potential positive side benefit of cyroablasion is a stimulated immune response against the cancer, according to Kaufman. A recent study conducted by Dr. Mike Sable revealed an immunological anti-cancer effect in mice in the cyro-group as opposed to the group that just received surgery. These findings suggest the technique provides stronger immunity to fight reoccurrence of breast cancer.    

The clinical cyroablation breast study is still underway and will conclude in October. If the procedure is approved by the FDA, it could mean a much better quality of life for breast cancer patients or those with lumpy breasts, said Kaufman.  

“People are living longer and want to avoid scars,” Kaufman said.