Laser ablation method used to treat benign prostate tumors now applied to breast tumors

MAY 7, 2009--During the recent meeting of the American Society of Breast Surgeons (April 22-26, San Diego, CA), a panel discussion explored the advantages of a new laser treatment for fibroadenomas, the most common form of benign breast tumor. Among the panelists was Kambiz Dowlat, M.D., professor of surgery at the Rush University Medical Center (Chicago, IL) who pioneered laser treatment of small breast tumors.

"With the X-ray guided laser technology we have today, lumpectomy is overkill," said Dowlat. "Lumpectomy creates a significant scar and can deform the breast when you take the tumor out. Fibroadenomas can be precisely ablated with a laser, giving a superior result and less medical risk than lumpectomy. This is a great boon for patients because they can have their benign tumors treated without significant consequences for their health or appearance."

Dowlat noted that breast health is moving toward less invasive treatments, which have fewer side effects. And Novian Health (Chicago), a company Dr. Dowlat founded, says its Novilase Interstitial Laser Therapy device is the first breast procedure to use direct laser therapy to treat fibroadenomas. The tool makes it possible to treat these non-cancerous tumors while minimizing risks and maintaining the breast's natural shape and feel, according to the company.

For the initial use of the Novilase technology, Novian Health sought and received FDA 510(k) clearance for the treatment of fibroadenomas of up to and including 2 cm.

The company explains that tumors are now being detected at earlier stages when they are smaller, and because laser therapy is less intimidating for most women, the procedure provides them with a third treatment option besides surgery and a "watch and wait" approach, which may encourage them to take advantage of early detection.

Dr. Dowlat's remarks emphasized several benefits of laser treatment over lumpectomy surgery, the traditional approach to treating fibroadenomas:

Minimal scarring. Because no incision is made, laser treatment generally leaves only minimal scars.

Natural shape and feel maintained. There is typically no "dimpling" with laser treatment because unlike a lumpectomy, the procedure does not remove tissue. In addition, the body's natural healing process repairs the tumor site and restores the breast's natural feel.

Less risk of adverse reaction. Laser treatment can be performed using local anesthetic. A lumpectomy often requires IV sedation or a general anesthetic, which can be riskier.

Less infection risk. The procedure involves the insertion of a laser probe and a thermal probe through two 1/8- inch skin nicks. The small size of the nicks keeps the infection risk extremely low. In contrast, a lumpectomy uses a 2 inch-to-3 inch incision, which creates a greater risk of infection.

Faster recovery. A patient can resume normal activity within a few hours of the procedure. Recovery from a lumpectomy can take several days.

About 10 percent of all women will experience fibroadenomas during their lifetime. Although not cancerous, fibroadenomas can cause physical discomfort and also anxiety because of the association of lumps with breast cancer. Thus, after consultation with their physicians, many women with this condition request that their fibroadenomas be removed.

Laser ablation has been successfully used to treat benign prostate tumors since the early 1990s.

To learn more about Novilase Breast Therapy, visit Novian Health's website.

Posted by Barbara G. Goode,, for BioOptics World.

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