BURTON -- Susan Saurman's remission with breast cancer ended this past April when the cancer returned in her bones.
She was in tremendous pain, couldn't walk without a cane and then learned that the cancer was eating away at her bones and causing them to fracture.
Typically three weeks of radiation is used to help these patients, but Susan opted for a new treatment that promised to not only end her pain, but strengthen her bones.
It's called cryoablation, or thermal ablation, and University Hospitals has performed it on almost two dozen patients in the last two years.
Dr. David Prologo inserts a probe into the bone using CAT and MRI scans to guide him to the exact spot of the cancer lesion. Then the probe freezes the cancer cells.
Afterward, a cement-like substance fills the space that helps make the bone stronger.
It's a one-day procedure and Susan says she was pain free and on her feet 24 hours later. She had it done twice on two lesions in her pelvis. She has others that are being controlled with traditional chemotherapy.
Few patients have reported side effects but risks include infection and bleeding. Studies are ongoing, but data shows the procedure can keep pain away for at least six months. It can also be repeated if necessary.
Each year about 100,000 cases of bone metastasis are reported in the U.S. Bone metastases occur when cancer cells gain access to the blood stream, reach the bone marrow, begin to multiply and then grow new blood vessels to obtain oxygen and food--which in turn causes the cancer cells to grow more and spread.
Some bone metastases become painful because the tumor eats away at the bone, creating holes that make the bone thin and weak. As the bones are replaced with tumor, nerve endings in and around the bone send pain signals to the brain.
If left untreated, bone metastases can eventually cause the bone to fracture--seriously affecting a patient's quality of life.