OGDEN — After losing a daughter and two younger sisters to cancer, Adele Adams decided the diagnosis was something she never wanted to face.
Unfortunately, in December, doctors told the 92-year-old she had a cancerous tumor in her breast.
"At my age, you don't want an operation," Adams said, adding that she considered letting it take her life, if that were to happen. "I just want to finish my garden and take care of my house."
Doctors gave her a couple options, including a surgical lumpectomy — the typical treatment for tumors throughout the body that is often followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation, or they said she could take medications to decrease the size of the tumor because it did not appear to be aggressive.
"She did not want the surgery," said Adams' son, Bob Adams. "She was against that from the beginning."
Then, Adele Adams was told about a relatively new technology now offered at Ogden Regional Medical Center in northern Utah that would eliminate the tumor during a short, nearly pain-free office visit and ideally result in little to no residual pain or recovery time.
She figured it was a "no-brainer."
"Who would do anything else," said Dr. Jose Perez-Tamayo, a breast radiologist at the hospital who performs cryoablation on breast cancers. "It's a whole new way of looking at treatment for breast cancer.
"We can now take care of the cancer without overtreating it, which is sometimes the concern with chemotherapy and radiation."
Technology developed by Sanarus Technologies employs a quick series of freezing and thawing of the tumor inside the body by circulating liquid nitrogen through a small metal probe inserted into the center of the cancer. The process is guided by real-time imaging using ultrasound technology.
The liquid nitrogen doesn't touch the body, but in the probe intensely freezes the cancer, starving it of blood flow and ultimately leading to dehydration and death of the diseased cells.
"On a biological level, it is doing a lot of really bad things to cells that want to stay alive," said Matt Nalipinski, chief technology officer with Sanarus. He called the action "real magic" and said patients often go home with little more than a bandage covering the small hole used for entry.
"I wish that more women were aware that this exists," Perez-Tamayo said. "I can't believe it hasn't been available before now. Cutting it out just seems so primitive."
The procedure, he said, has been shown to be 100 percent effective for tumors less than 1 centimeter in size. The efficacy drops slightly as the tumor increases in size, but that's also the case with other types of cancer treatment.
"I hope my experience can save others from going through what my sisters did," Adams said. "If there's any question at all, I'd say to look into it. Even young women need extra time to live and enjoy their lives."
She was "thrilled" to be able to get right back to her gardening and home care after the procedure, which was done March 1.
And staving off potentially trying chemotherapy and radiation means Adams can also continue her tradition of eating at Ogden's Pizzeria every Thursday, where she has a permanent lunch reservation. Other than deteriorating hips and nearly lifelong diabetes, the nonagenarian, credits her long, happy and relatively healthy life to "staying active, gardening, being active at church and nice neighbors."
"I am happy. Why slow down?" she said.
It makes Adams happy that more options are now available for Utah women to treat breast cancer, "because so many get it."
Cryoablation has been used for years on tumors in other parts of the body, mostly for benign lesions in the kidneys, prostate, liver and on the skin. But recent study has found it to be just as relevant for breast cancer.
And because of the popularity of preventive screening, Perez-Tamayo said more cancers are being found earlier and tumors are smaller at the onset of treatment, providing more reason for the cryoablation procedure.
The technology, he said, is perfect for women of any age with early stage breast cancers, especially those for whom surgery isn't an option, perhaps because they are too frail or too sick, or because "some women just don't want surgery or chemotherapy."
He said lumpectomies involve potentially troubling anesthesia and often end up damaging surrounding breast tissue or resulting in a full mastectomy.
"I just freeze the tumor," he said, adding that eventually the body will dissolve and remove the frozen-fried cells on its own. Being able to see the detection and treatment through to the end, Perez-Tamayo said, is a "good feeling for a radiologist."
"It feels fantastic," he gushed.