By Dr. Mark Cooper Blount Memorial Hospital
The goal of any treatment program, no matter the ailment, disease or illness, is to alleviate symptoms from patients and also to hopefully eradicate, or destroy, the disease itself. If eradication is not possible, then disease containment would be suitable to enable the patient to live with his or her disease and the toll its process take on the body.
When it comes to lung cancer, traditionally, surgery is the gold standard of treatment when it has been detected at an early stage. However, there are many patients who have localized diseases and are not thought to be suitable candidates for curative surgery. They may be medically unfit or have poor respiratory function, both of which could cause complications during and after the procedure. Newer techniques, which involve less invasive surgical procedures, are currently being developed. The goal in developing these new techniques is to get rid of tumors while not subjecting the patients to the traditional risks of surgery. These newer techniques also are preserving pulmonary function.
Cryosurgery is one such ablative, or destroying, technique. Tumors are essentially eliminated by freezing or reducing the temperature to close to minus 200 degrees celcius through several cycles. Then, the destroyed tumor disintegrates within the body over the next few months. After the procedure, patients are followed by PET/CT scans to monitor and assess the tumor to ensure that no further treatment is necessary.
Although patients do require an anesthetic and a small operative procedure so that a probe can be inserted directly onto the tumor in the lung, the procedure is relatively short and less invasive than traditional thoracic surgery. Patients experiencing this technique have fewer complications and good outcomes, and it is a viable treatment that can work together with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, allowing patients, when appropriately treated, to have a meaningful quality of life.
Currently, few hospitals and cancer centers offer cryosurgery as an option for treatment or a cure, but there are indications that it can offer benefits that are unparalleled in regard to patient success. Blount Memorial now offers the procedure after cryosurgery first was introduced to the community earlier this year.
That’s important to all patients, but especially those in Blount and surrounding counties, because lung cancer still is the No. 1 cancer killer in the United States, even though mortality rates are slowly declining. Common symptoms patients may experience include cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, and possible headache and weight loss. The development and availability of newer surgical treatments such as cryosurgery aim to keep patients alive and in a stable condition. And, since several of these techniques are repeatable, they can be tailored to meet the patient’s symptoms.
Patients concerned about their risks of developing lung cancer have options for screening available to them. For more information about the types of screenings available, call my office at 865-681-4800, the Blount Memorial Cancer Center at 865-980-5025 or the patient’s local primary care physician.
Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Mark Cooper is a diplomate in the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, and is affiliated with Roseman, Budayr and Cooper, and is a member of the active medical staff of Blount Memorial Hospital.