OGDEN — When Adele Adams, 92, came down with pneumonia, it probably saved her life.
In December, the Ogden resident was diagnosed with pneumonia, but during her exam, her physician also discovered a lump in her right breast that turned out to be early-stage breast cancer.
“I'm leery of operations and I didn't like the idea of having surgery, especially at my age,” Adams said. “I'm very independent. I still take care of my home and do yardwork. I didn't want to have surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.”
After seeing three doctors who all suggested surgery, Adams met Dr. Jose Perez-Tamayo, a diagnostic radiologist at Ogden Regional Medical Center. He suggested a completely different option: a noninvasive procedure called cryoablation. If she agreed, Adams would be the first person in Utah to have the procedure, and she would go home with nothing but a Band-Aid over the tiny incision.
Cryoablation, developed by Sanarus Technologies, is an alternative to lumpectomy surgery and can also reduce or eliminate the need for additional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, Perez-Tamayo said. Ogden Regional Medical Center is the first in the state and among a limited number of hospitals nationwide to utilize the proven therapy.
“Physicians have utilized cryoablation for decades to treat several types of cancer, most commonly kidney, liver, lung and prostate,” he said.
To perform the procedure, physicians pass a hollow-tipped probe through a small incision and insert it into the breast. The patient’s ultrasound images guide the probe to the center of the tumor.
“Low-pressure liquid nitrogen changes the temperature of the probe and forms an ice ball around the treatment area,” Perez-Tamayo said. “The cancer cells are destroyed after several freeze-thaw cycles, and the surrounding healthy tissue is left intact.”
There is no hospitalization or pain, little if any bruising, and no scarring or general anesthetic involved. Once the procedure is performed, the dead cells are gradually reabsorbed and expelled by the body over a period of three to 18 months. A five-year study by the National Cancer Institute, published in 2016, revealed that freezing is effective against 92 percent of targeted breast tumors.
“I brought three of my children with me to hear about the procedure. I wanted their approval also,” Adams said. “After explaining the details, we all agreed it would be a great way to take care of it.”
On March 1, just three days before her 92nd birthday, Adams had the procedure.
“We came in around 11 in the morning and left around 1,” she said. “The doctor numbed the area and about 20 minutes later, he told me he was done. I said, 'Really?' He said, 'Yes. Can I help you off of the table?' I got up and walked out on my own, without any pain at all and went to lunch with my family.”
Adams said she didn't feel any pain and experienced no bruising.
“I feel completely fine,” she said. “I just wish it had been available when two of my sisters had breast cancer. They both had mastectomies and all of the other stuff. They were both younger than me and didn't survive. This could have helped them survive.”
Adams son, Bob Adams, said his mother is a very independent woman with a strong positive attitude.
“She's very positive. She's always smiling and is very active,” he said. “She wasn't about to let anything slow her down.”
Perez-Tamayo said he encourages more women to look into and understand all of their options so they can make informed treatment decisions.
“Cryoablation is a great choice for women diagnosed with early-stage breast tumors. We see positive results following this virtually painless outpatient procedure,” he said. “This treatment can significantly reduce the stress that is often related to a breast cancer diagnosis.”
Adams said she's now a big proponent of the procedure.
“I definitely recommend it,” she said. “If it helps even one person, it's worth it. I really want young women to know about this because they have so much life to live.”