Medical Minute 10-7: Fighting Cancer on Your Lunch Break

By: Andrew McIntosh Email
By: Andrew McIntosh Email

For 17 years, Gunilla Pilo enjoyed a challenging career planning dinners for the Nobel Prize held here each year at city hall in Stockholm, Sweden.

"It's a grand festivity."

But after retiring last year, she faced a bigger challenge. Doctors found a cancerous tumor in her breast.

"It was a shock."

She enrolled in a research study on a new technique to kill breast tumors -- known as preferential radio frequency ablation or PRFA -- the brain child of Professor Hans Wiksell.

"As soon as you have done, it you can say to the patient that now the tumor cannot spread anymore," said Hans Wiksell, Professor of Medical Technology, Karolinska Institute, Sweden.

The goal is to catch it at an early stage.

"Those women, if we can get them to go through minimally invasive therapy instead of surgery, it will help them a lot," said Karin Leifland, M.D., Ph.D., Mammography Physician and head of the Unilabs Mammography Department at Capio St Göran´s Hospital in Stockholm.

Here's how it works: Doctors place a thin electrode guided by ultrasound into the tumor. The tumor is then heated to 167-degrees -- killing it and leaving the surrounding tissue unharmed.

"The DNA and other things inside dies, so it could not live anymore, it could not divide anymore."

The non-invasive surgery can be done in an hour, with no scars and no recovery time.

"You could do it at your lunch time and then go back and work afterwards. You don't really feel anything," said Gunilla Pilo, had breast tumor.

Because of PRFA, Gunilla's now cancer-free and enjoying the beauty around her.

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500,


BACKGROUND: Breast cancer occurs when some breast cells begin growing abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells, accumulating to form a tumor that may spread through your breast, to your lymph nodes or to other parts of your body. There are numerous types of breast cancer, but cancer that begins in the milk ducts (ductal carcinoma) is the most common type. Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it's far more common in women. After skin cancer, it is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States. Doctors determine breast cancer treatment options based on the type of breast cancer, its stage, whether the cancer cells are sensitive to hormones, overall health, and personal preferences. Most women undergo surgery for breast cancer and also receive additional treatment such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy or radiation. (SOURCE: Mayo Clinic)

CAUSES: It's not clear what causes breast cancer. Doctors estimate that only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations passed through generations of a family. It's likely that breast cancer is caused by a complex interaction of genetic makeup and environment.
(SOURCE: Mayo Clinic)

RISK FACTORS: Factors that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer include: being female; increasing age; a personal history of breast cancer; a family history of breast cancer; inherited gene mutations that increase the risk of cancer; radiation exposure; obesity; beginning your period at a younger age (before 12); beginning menopause at an older age (after 55); having your first child at an older age (after 35); postmenopausal hormone therapy; and drinking alcohol. (SOURCE: Mayo Clinic)

TREATMENT: There are six standard treatments currently used for breast cancer including surgery, sentinel lymph node biopsy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. Patients may decide to participate in clinical trials for treatment. There are thousands of ongoing clinical trials for breast cancer, including PRFA. The first clinical trial for PRFA has been published, and a second is ongoing. The current focus of this clinical trial is on elderly patients, but there are plans to expand the trials to include those with benign changes.
(SOURCE: Mayo Clinic,

Karin Leifland, M.D., Ph.D.
Capio S:t Göran´s Hospital in Stockholm

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