What is Cryoablation?

Breast cancer treatment


a process that uses extreme cold (cryo) to kill tissue (ablation).

Cryoablation is used in a variety of clinical applications using hollow needles (cryoprobes) through which cooled, thermally conductive, fluids are circulated. Cryoprobes are inserted into or placed adjacent to tissue which is determined to be diseased in such a way that ablation will provide correction yielding benefit to the patient. 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.

Ablation occurs in tissue that has been frozen by at least three mechanisms:

  1. Formation of ice crystals within cells thereby disrupting membranes, and interrupting cellular metabolism among other processes
  2. Coagulation of blood thereby interrupting blood flow to the tissue in turn causing ischemia and cell death
  3. Induction of the so-called programmed cell death cascade.

What is Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy, also called cryosurgery, cryoablation or targeted cryoablation therapy, refers to the application of extreme cold to destroy diseased tissue, including cancer cells. Cryotherapy is used to destroy skin tumors, precancerous skin moles, nodules, skin tags or unsightly freckles. With the improvement of imaging techniques and the development of devices to better control extreme temperatures, physicians use cryotherapy as a treatment for patients with breast cancer as well as other forms of cancer.

Physicians have learned that it is important to get a complete freeze beyond the tumor boundaries to establish clean margins and kill the entire tumor. This can be done because frozen tissue looks different during ultrasound than normal tissue. As a result, the physician can follow the progress of the tissue freezing using ultrasound as the freeze occurs and can therefore control size of the “freeze ball”, the area of frozen tissue.

Why we wrote this book

A revolution in breast cancer treatment is going on in this country. The button starting this revolution may have been pushed in 2003 when Dr. Peter Littrup of Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit agreed to use cryoablation to treat my breast cancer. This treatment had been used for years to successfully treat prostate cancer with far less pain and trauma than traditional surgery, as well as far less occurrence of ED and incontinence. And years of research where cryoablation was followed up by a mastectomy proved that it worked. So why was it not being used routinely on women’s breasts? Dr. Littrup agreed to give it a try on mine, making me the first woman in America to have cryoablation and save my breast from a mastectomy.

Why did I travel from the west coast all the way across the country to see if I was a good candidate to have my breast frozen? To save it, that’s why. I had 3 small tumors in a row. My surgeon told me a mastectomy was my only option. I’m lucky to have a loving husband with amazing internet sleuthing and phone skills. He followed the trail of cryoabalation for prostrate cancer to a woman who ran a phone “hot line” providing treatment information. She had heard a speech by Dr. Littrup suggesting this technique might be good for treating breast cancer. Several phone calls later, I was telling him I was willing to give it a shot. That was seven years ago. Today I am cancer free and still have my “condemned” breast, beautifully looking back at me whenever I choose to take a peak in the mirror.

This website contains various links that are useful to anyone wanting to learn more about cryoablation for breast cancer. My book They’re Mine and I’m Keeping Them is available for sale on amazon.com and a link to that site is provided. It is my story of this experience and is based on my journal. It recounts my emotions and how I physically felt before and after surgery. It includes recollections of the experience by my husband, Alex Paul, who also traveled later to Detroit and interviewed Dr. Littrup and wrote his biography. Dr. Littrupp added to the chapters about himself and provides important information about his research and inventions.

Since my treatment in 2003, I’ve made it a point to drop whatever I’m doing whenever a woman calls to ask me about having her breast frozen as a treatment option. There have been many heartfelt conversations with women I’ve never met in person. Many of them have never called me back to let me know what they’ve decided to do. I believe there is currently enough interest out there to warrant this site to help a woman decide if this is the right option for her.

Also included is a short video my talented son Louie Paul, put together of a discussion between myself, my friend who had breast cancer and chose a lumpectomy about the same time my breasts were frozen, and another woman recently returned from Detroit where she had the latest and much improved version of this same procedure I pioneered in 2003. (It has improved a lot)

If you are looking at this website to help you make a decision if cryoablation is for you, I hope the site will help you. I truly believe that cryoablation has added a breast conserving, easyoption for breast cancer treatment, and this is REVOLUTIONARY!