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New treatment kills cancer tumors with heat

December 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
No surgery, no chemotherapy. Now doctors are killing cancer with heat. Local physicians are using a new treatment to heat up and shrink tumors.Two-hundred-thousand people were diagnosed with lung cancer this year. And 57,000 people began their battle with kidney cancer. Now instead of chemotherapy or surgery, doctors have a new weapon in the fight against cancer.

Kathy Villa is a high-powered real-estate agent. She doesn't let the stresses of her high profile job get to her, not anymore.

That's because she's lived through real trauma. She had lung cancer. Surgeons removed her lower right lobe. A few months later, her left lobe. Then, another cancer was found in her right lung.

"At that point is when they couldn't operate anymore," said Villa.

But now, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Dr. Peter Julien has a more targeted, less invasive way to kill her tumor.

Microwaving tumors, or radio-frequency tumor ablation, uses a needle that's inserted into the middle of the tumor.

"It generates heat locally at the site of the tumor and basically cooks the tumor to death," said Julien.

Guided by CT scans, doctors use electrical currents to heat the tumor to 160 degrees.

"The energy that creates the heat is centered around the needle tip, and it does destroy some of the normal tissue around the tumor, which is what we want," said Julien.

Patients can go home the same day with no scars and no pain. And the best part for Villa: She was awake through it all.

"For me it was very empowering to be a part of the team that's working on my body to extend my life," said Villa.

Six months later, Villa is cancer-free.

Unfortunately this heat treatment is not effective for every type of tumor. Julien says it's best used on localized tumors. If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, it's not a good option.


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