Unique cutting edge technology is helping surgeons at Darent Valley Hospital wage a cold war on tumours. DAVID MILLS finds out more.
CRYOTHERAPY is a revolutionary technique used to kill cancer cells by freezing tumours of the kidney or prostate.
The patient is admitted on the day of the operation, put to sleep and then has a camera inserted through a 10mm opening to dissect and isolate the tumour.
Special needles, usually three or four depending on the tumour’s size, are inserted and then argon gas is passed through for about 10 minutes.
This freezes the tumour, turning it into an ice ball, with temperatures falling to as low as -60C before helium gas is used to thaw it.
The low temperature causes all the cancer cells to die, leaving only scar tissue.
Needles are removed leaving small abdominal wounds and the patient is usually discharged in the next day or two.
Consultant urologist Seshadri Sriprasad is leading the procedure, making Darent Valley Hospital the first in Kent and one of 10 centres able to offer this treatment in the UK.
The 46-year-old, of Downs Valley, Hartley, said: “Cryotherapy is very important technology.
“The other options are either to do keyhole surgery and take the kidney out, or take part of the kidney out, which would be much more invasive.
“Taking part of a kidney with a tumour out is a much bigger operation than taking the kidney out.
“Cryotherapy is less invasive and gets the same result, it's not a painful operation because the scar's so minimal.
“It's useful for people with a single kidney, and if they're not fit enough for a major operation, you can treat them this way, causing minimal damage to the kidney.”
The hospital currently only hires the equipment, but if it were able to buy it, many more patients would benefit.
The Darent Valley Hospital Cancer Fighting Fund, which raises money for the latest treatments, has so far raised £30,000 towards the £95,000 cost of buying the equipment.
Mr Sriprasad, 46, said: “The charity has played an important part in us getting the equipment and we'll continue to rely on that.
“The goal is to buy it eventually, we would be treating more patients.”
A sponsored walk is being held at the hospital at 12 noon on July 12 to raise money for the charity, visit stride4lifecff.co.uk or call 01322 428392 for more information.
"I HAD NO DISCOMFORT, NO PAIN"
Patricia Wood, of Trevithick Drive, Dartford, had cryotherapy treatment to remove a tumour on her kidney in July 2007.
The grandmother-of-three said: “I was a bit anxious because it was such a new method but I was very pleased with the result.
“I went home after 5 days. I had no discomfort, no pain.
“It's such a small scar, I wasn't aware it would be as smooth as this.”
The former teacher’s aid, aged 71, said: “I'm grateful I was given the opportunity to have this operation.
“I can't tell you how lucky I am, I think about it every day.
“It could have gone the other way and I could have lost a kidney.”