BREAST cancer patients could be spared major surgery thanks to a new 10-minute operation.
While the patient is under local anaesthetic a pencil-sized probe is inserted into the tumour and blasts it with liquid nitrogen. Encased in a frozen ball, the tumour is destroyed within seconds and the patient can go home.
At present even small tumours have to be removed under general anaesthetic leaving a disfiguring three-inch scar. When the tumour is killed by freezing, the dead cells are absorbed into the body so the breast keeps its shape. One doctor who uses the technique says patients are left with hardly a mark.
It is due to arrive in Britain later this year. Doctors hope the procedure will be used routinely in five years.
Professor Kefah Mokbel, consultant breast surgeon at St George’s Hospital, London, who will lead the trial, said: “It will be gone a few minutes after you have seen the doctor. It will represent an enormous saving of time and money.”
About 80 per cent of women with breast cancer have tumours of two centimetres or less, ideal for the treatment, known as cryotherapy.
The ultrasound helps guide the probe into the tumour which is then given a blast of -170C nitrogen.
US-based surgeon Dr Andrew Kenler, who uses cryotherapy at Bridgeport Hospital, Connecticut, part of Yale University, said: “Patients think it is fantastic. We biopsy the tumour then treat it all in a few minutes. After a few days it is almost impossible to see where the probe went in.”
Professor Mokbel will carry out the cryotherapy trials at the London Breast Institute at the Princess Grace Hospital,