I had breast cancer for 47 days: my journey with breast cryoablation

On a blistery autumn day, two days after my 79th birthday, I received a message from my radiologist that my mammogram showed a finding “that requires additional imaging studies”.

A few weeks later on December 18th I would receive the news that I had invasive ductal carcinoma – breast cancer. But as quickly as my diagnosis came, I also received a cure. 47 days later I had cryoablation to freeze my breast cancer away.

My breast cancer diagnosis came in a round about way. After having survived the death of my husband ten years before after a wonderful 51-year marriage, the death of my oldest daughter 3 year prior, and my own serious stroke 2 years ago, I had decided that I no longer needed mammograms and hadn’t had one in four years. But I received a flyer from my local gym offering a $50 discount on a massage when you schedule a mammogram at Centra State Medical Center in New Jersey – so I thought, why not?

But I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe things happen for a reason.

After the mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy, I met with a breast surgical oncologist who referred me to Dr. Kenneth Tomkovich, an interventional radiologist, who was the Co-Primary Investigator of the ICE3 Clinical Trial looking into the cryoablation of small, low-risk breast cancers.

He explained to me the simple cryoablation procedure; my breast would be numbed with lidocaine (local anesthetic), a needle-like instrument called a cryoprobe would be inserted into the tumor and be frozen with liquid nitrogen (the liquid nitrogen stays in the cryoprobe and is injected into the body), and a small band-aid would be placed on the insertion site.

He estimated the entire procedure would take about 45 minutes and then I could go on with the rest of my day as planned.

Since I met all the trial criteria – woman over 65, invasive tumor less than 2cm in size – I was deemed to be an excellent candidate. So that’s it! I said to myself. The reason for the cancer, for all the coincidences, for the discovery. I was meant to be a part of a trial and tell the world about it.

Although it only took me seconds to decide that I’d rather have a small needle inserted under a local numbing rather going under the knife for surgical removal under general anesthesia, both doctors wanted me to ask more questions, think it over, talk to my family, sleep on the decision.

I did, and the next morning, my decision was still the same. Cryoablation would be the only way to go.

Like myself, my children were unafraid, excited I wanted to be part of a trial, and in agreement with my decision. No need to tell anyone else until the cryoablation was completed and the cancer was gone.

And then I did it – I had the cryoablation procedure. Drove myself there, had it done, and then drove myself to lunch date.

It’s been over 5 years now and I’m still cancer-free without having done radiation or chemotherapy thanks to cryoablation.

My medical team, oncologist, and radiologist followed up with me extensively over this time period – mammograms, MRI, and blood work. My oncologist recommended endocrine or hormone therapy since my breast cancer was HER2+, but that was only a simple daily pill that I took.

There are only a select number of doctors performing breast cryoablation in the US at the moment.

The company that sponsored the ICE3 trial and is manufacturing the ProSense Cryoablation System, IceCure Medical, recently was granted Breakthrough Device Designation by the FDA for T1 invasive breast cancer or women with breast cancer who are not eligible for general surgery.

Hopefully, if the FDA will give full approval for breast cryoablation more doctors will adopt the technology and make it more accessible.

Being free from cancer because of a clinical trial and knowing that I am contributing to what could be a reduction in surgeries, angst, pain, radiation, and chemo for thousands of women is a pretty wonderful feeling.

Life doesn’t get any better than that.


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