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Freezing Tumors Latest Treatment in Battle Against LC

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A new technique for treatment of lung cancer when conventional methods are not possible has come to Blount County by way of England.

Dr. Mark Cooper, a thoracic surgeon now affiliated with the practice of Dr. Barry J. Roseman and Dr. Mahdi M. Budayr in Maryville, is helping lung cancer patients by use of cryosurgery. In this technique, the tumor is frozen and subsequently disintegrates within the body over the next few months.

Cryosurgery is not a new procedure and has been used in cancer treatment in other organs and tissues of the body for several years. Using it to treat lung cancer is a recent development, however, Cooper said, and has had encouraging results.

In the procedure, a small cut is made in the chest wall and a probe is inserted directly onto the tumor in the lung.

“It completely freezes the tumor,” Cooper said. “The temperature is taken down to greater than minus 190 degrees (Celsius). That’s pretty cold. The tumor cells and some normal tissue are affected but it leaves the integrity of the remaining tissue intact.

“It benefits these patients who can’t afford to lose a lot of pre-existing lung tissue. ... It’s more successful when used to treat patients who can’t have the gold standard operation, which is removal of the lobe of the lung. Anyone who can have that should have it, but cryosurgery is a treatment for those patients who are not able to tolerate that.”

He explained that cryosurgery is indicated in two instances. “The initial type is for people who have lung cancer in the very advanced stage. They usually have airway obstruction, and the cryosurgery is to basically relieve that and to palliate them,” which means to alleviate the pain without actually curing the disease.

“Cryosurgery, with radiotherapy and chemotherapy, improves the quality of life and also the longevity,” Cooper said.

Cryosurgery is also used when the patient has a very early form of lung cancer but is not physically fit enough to undergo the traditional, proven surgical treatment, removal of the diseased portion of the lung.

In lung cancer, the patient may have a wide variety of symptoms. “The warning signs are cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, for a more local disease,” Cooper explained. In more advanced cases, the patient may experience headache and weight loss.

“The most important factor in reducing your risk is to cut back on tobacco smoke, both smoking yourself and secondhand smoke,” Cooper said. Lung cancer in a close relative may also indicate a tendency toward developing the disease. Early screening is advised.

Cooper has performed successful cryosurgery for lung cancer at Blount Memorial Hospital.

“If people are debilitated from lung cancer, or if they’ve got bleeding from the tumor or are short of breath because the lung is collapsed from the tumor, the surgery can alleviate all these symptoms,” he said. “I think you have quite remarkable palliation plus there is a slight improvement in survival, as well, for these patients.”

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