Pooja Kulkarni is a student in her final year student of Masters in Industrial Design, a course offered by the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB). For her academic project she has designed a surgical device (a needle for cryosurgery) to be used to operate on breast cancer patients which will help conserve the soft tissues in the breast and will only kill the tumour. This device will be used for cryoablation of tumours in soft tissues.
Cryoablation is a form of treatment used to kill cancer cells with extreme cold and a device called cryoprobe which is used to perform this surgery. Liquid nitrogen is circulated through the probe. When the probe comes in contact with the cancer cells there is a heat exchange, and thus the cells freeze rapidly. This results in intra cellular ice formation that ensures cell necrosis (cell death). It doesn’t harm soft tissues in the breast; hence the breast can be preserved from damage in such a procedure.
“Due to the traditional surgery i.e a mastectomy (removal of the entire breast tissue) or a lumpectomy ( removal of the tumor and some part of the healthy breast tissue), the psychological and physical impact on the patient is very high.Due to the current developments in minimally invasive surgery and non invasive monitoring techniques, ‘Breast conservation’ is possible and this is beneficial to the overall health of the patient.”
One of the characterisation or key benefit of the project is; by using cryosurgery it will take less time as compared to the current operative processes being used.
Cryosurgery being the less known factor was the reason Pooja was attracted toward this idea. “Very few institutes in world are doing research on this method of surgery. It is a useful way. To my knowledge cryosurgery for breast cancer hasn’t been performed yet in India, said Pooja Kulkarni.
“Cryosurgery technique is not used in the mainstream medical practice because there is no satisfactory data to establish the effectiveness of the Cryo technique. After the clinical trials the technique can be adopted,” Dr Vinay Deshmane, Consultant Surgical Oncology, Hinduja Hospital
Cryosurgery technique is still to find roots in the Indian healthcare system. After considering its advantages experts suggest to take precautions after the surgery. Dr Reshma Palep, Consultant Breast Surgeon at Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre said, “Cryosurgery has been performed for other cancer treatments in India but not for the breast cancer. For its effectiveness to be measured on the breast cancer patients we have to keep monitoring them up to five years of cryosurgery to make sure that cancer doesn’t grow again.”
Also there is a lack of awareness about breast cancer in India which could be a hurdle in adopting this method of surgery. “Cryosurgery could be an effective method depending upon which stage the cancer has been identified. In India, there is lack of awareness about mammography and hence the cancer is identified in the later stages. For using cryosurgery the state of the cancer is an important thing to be considered,” Dr Palep added.