In a process called cryoablation, surgeons freeze the tumors to kill the cells. The technique is already used as a non-surgical treatment for benign breast disease. Results of the study, published in the May issue of the Annals of Surgical Oncology, found cryoablation is effective at killing cancerous cells in small tumors.
Although still an experimental treatment for breast cancer, these findings move cryosurgery one step closer to clinical application for early stage disease.
As mammograms and other imaging techniques become more sophisticated, doctors are able to find breast cancer earlier, when tumors are very small. Progress in detection has led to an increased interest in developing alternatives to traditional surgery for early-stage cancer.
"This trial shows that cryoablation is a safe, well-tolerated office-based procedure that holds real promise for treating early stage breast cancer," says Michael Sabel, M.D., a surgical oncologist from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and lead author of the study.
In late 2003, University of Michigan Health System researchers reported findings from a preliminary study, focusing on the UMHS results. The current paper reflects the results of seven trial centers from across the country.
The study followed 27 women with primary invasive breast cancers no larger than 2.0 centimeters in diameter. One to four weeks following ultrasound-guided cryoablation, the women's tumors were removed by lumpectomy and studied to determine whether cryoablation was effective.
Cryoablation is an outpatient procedure requiring only local anesthesia. Directed by ultrasound images, a physician guides a disposable probe through a small breast inci