Can freezing tumors cure breast cancer?

Posted at 3:45 PM, May 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-30 23:41:46-04

A new breast cancer treatment called cryoablation uses no major surgery, no chemotherapy and no radiation.

Doctors and patients tell ABC15 the recovery time is measured in hours instead of months.

This IceCure procedure makes an ice cube in the body that freezes the tumor and surrounding tissue, killing the cancer. Cryoablation is still experimental for breast cancer, but doctors have had success treating non-cancerous breast tumors for years.Cryoablation is also used to treat cancerous tumors in the liver, kidneys and prostrate.

In Scottsdale, Carolina Butler, 81, went for a mammogram after having a strange pain.

"I had been feeling jabs in my left breast for about a year and a half," Butler said.

After spotting something concerning on the image, a biopsy confirmed she had cancer. Butler had just watched her sister go through treatment.

"I saw her suffer through that, and it was a long recovery period," Butler said.

Butler's doctor offered her another, less invasive option. The IceCure procedure uses liquid nitrogen to super-cool a probe inserted into the middle of the tumor.  

"It literally kills it by freezing it, and the body comes it puts a reaction around it and mops us all that dead tissue gradually over the next few months," said Belinda Barclay-White, a radiologist who has done four of the procedures.

Patients can have the treatment in their doctor's regular office under local anesthesia. Butler had her procedure in March and returned to her normal schedule the same day.

"Two of my sons took me to a movie, and after that, we went home, and I cooked a few tortillas," Butler said. "I would just use the word fortunate."

The procedure is still in clinical trials, so it's only available to women over 65 with smaller, less aggressive tumors.

"If you find them small, it's smaller treatments," Barclay-White said. 

Ten weeks after the procedure, Dr Barclay-White is watching for signs of the tumor disappearing. Butler says she's healing well. 

"Theres no scar," Butler said  "I think there is a red dot."

For more information about the breast cancer cryoablation clinical trial you can visit the links below: