Monday, February 4, 2013

Cryoablation and Hope

As the webmaster of the Relay For Life of Polk County Arkansas Facebook page and blog, I am always looking for interesting and informative material to bring to the readers.  Until just a few weeks ago, cryoablation as a cancer treatment was something I had never heard of.  The situation that brought about my learning of cryoablation is personal.  Today my Mom goes in to the hospital for treatment on her kidney tumor. As you can see from the CT scan capture it is a large tumor. The procedure that the doctors are going to use is cryoablation.

Cryoablation uses hollow needles through which cooled, thermally conductive, fluids are circulated. Cryoprobes are inserted into the tumor. When the probes are in place, the cryogenic freezing unit removes heat ("cools") from the tip of the probe and by extension from the surrounding tissues.  The most common application of cryoablation is to ablate solid tumors found in the lung, liver, breast, kidney and prostate.

The concept of cryoablation is relatively new in cancer surgery for any disease.  Traditionally, surgeons have treated cancer by literally cutting it out. In contrast to this approach, cryoablation is a different concept in that cold energy is used to destroy the cancerous tissue at the exact site where it exists in the body. Cryoablation is particularly well suited to kidney cancer.

Cryoablation is a very promising new approach to kidney cancer. This kind of new treatment is why I am a strong supporter of cancer research.  I have spent the last six years doing all that I can to raise money for cancer research through the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life.  As I was researching this procedure I came across the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Library website.  I found these words about Renal Cryoablation that were written in 2008.  "Early results have demonstrated that it may offer an alternative for the treatment of renal masses with the advantages of minimal complications, spared renal function, decreased overall costs and equivalent oncologic efficacy. Long-term results are required in order to apply this minimally invasive technique to a broader spectrum of patients".  Just five years ago the procedure that will be used on my Mom tomorrow was a brand new technology.  It has only been available in Arkansas for two years.

Several large medical centers have produced data demonstrating that kidney cancer is cured in approximately 97 percent of patients who undergo cryoablation with a follow-up of three years. Because it is such a new procedure , 10 year follow-up information on patients having undergone cryoablation is not yet available.  Some of the data is showing 98 to 100 percent cure rates.

I know that at Relay For Life events we often hear that we are raising money to find a cure. Cancer is not just one disease, it is many many diseases. Sometimes when we see how many people are affected by cancer and how much misery suffering and sadness it causes it seems hopeless. In my work for the American Cancer Society people often tell me that there will never be a cure because cancer is a big business and the doctors and pharmaceutical companies would suppress a cure if it was found. What a sad way of life it is for these people who have no hope. One of the things that Relay For Life events around the world focus on is providing people with hope. Hope is why we Relay!


I like a statement that the American Cancer Society released recently.  "Together with our millions of supporters, we save lives and create more birthdays by helping you stay well, helping you get well, finding cures and fighting back against this disease. Thanks to research funded by the American Cancer Society, many cancers that were once considered a death sentence can now be cured and for many more people their cancer can now be treated effectively".  It is way to simplistic to be focusing on a cure.  The American Cancer Society is focusing on "cures".  The fact that many cancers that were once considered a death sentence can now be cured should give us hope.  The fact that six years ago when I got involved with Relay For Life the treatment that my Mom will undergo tomorrow would not have been available to her gives me hope.  The 97 to 100 percent cure rates that have been seen with renal cryoablation gives me hope.  Relay For Life gives me hope.