Freezing Cancer Cells Leaves Patients Vulnerable

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A recent study done on mice at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found promising techniques for killing a malignant tumor that may also stop it from spreading. The study touched on two types of therapies being considered to treat breast cancer. One is cryoablation, which freezes the tumor to destroy it, and the other is laser ablation, which burns the tumor. Doctors will put a small probe into the breast and deliver either an extremely cold substance or concentrated heat directly into the tumor.

I know of evidence that both applications destroy cancers, but I still have serious concerns about these therapies. When you destroy the tumor completely all the information that we can attain from it is lost. When I do surgery and cut a tumor out of the body I can find out how aggressive the cancer is and the tumor type by doing additional testing.

The other issue I have with these treatments is that during conventional treatment (surgery) I can be sure that I have removed all of the cancer. When you do surgery you want to have what are called "clear margins." This means that there is a healthy tissue around the cancer which will decrease the chances of recurrence. Cryoablation and laser ablation don't give doctors a defined margin so I fear the cancer could come back.

Another potential problem with these therapies is that there are no long term studies to determine the risk of recurrence. The studies are promising but they have only been done on animals and are now moving to human trials. I don't see a problem with using cryoablation on fibroadenomas, which are benign tumors. Using it on these types of tumors has been shown to shrink them over the course of 1 to 2 years. But I still think that surgery is the best option for breast cancer patients and I wouldn't recommend cryoablation or laser ablation for my patients.

Dr. Cynara Coomer is an assistant professor of surgery specializing in breast health and breast cancer surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. She is a FOX News Health contributor providing medical expertise on a variety of topics in cancer research with a focus on women's health, breast diseases and tips for healthy breasts at any age. If you have a question email her at