Noise 'Zaps' Tumours
Updated: 13:11, Friday October 20, 2006
Doctors are using a pioneering new technique which destroys tumours using nothing more than loud noise.
Using a powerful beam of ultrasound they are able to zap diseased tissue without leaving a scar, writes Sky News Health Correspondent Thomas Moore.
It is being tested on women suffering from fibroids, who would once have had to have a hysterectomy.
The sound is too high pitched for the human ear to hear, and there is no radiation, no toxic chemotherapy, and no scar.
Shirley Coombs had been lined up for a hysterectomy. She has fibroids - benign tumours that grow in the womb and affect one in three women.
But with high powered ultrasound doctors will zap the growths and leave her womb intact. She will be able to have children.
"I like the idea of leaving everything intact. I can carry on with my life rather than be laid up for 4 to 6 weeks with a hysterectomy."
The new zap-while-you-scan technique allows doctors to blast tumours with unprecedented precision.
How machine works
Patients lie, face down, in an MRI scanner. Doctors outline the tumour on high-resolution images of the body.
Then they zap the target, using a dish of water as a lens to focus a beam of ultrasound down to a tiny point. In just one second they heat cells to 55 degrees, and watch the scan as the tissue is destroyed.
For Professor Wladyslaw Gedroyc there are benefits on both sides: "We can treat patients in a single session. They walk in, they walk out. There is no bed stay, there are no scars, and no more unpleasant surgical complications."
The beam is 10,000 times more powerful than the ultrasound used to scan pregnant women. Yet it's only a few millimeters across, allowing doctors to destroy diseased tissue, without harming healthy cells.
Trials at St Mary's Hospital in London show significant improvements in 80 per cent of women.
For now the zapper is the only one of its kind in the country.
But the doctors say their results speak for themselves. And in time patients around the country will have their tumours obliterated using nothing more than the power of sound.
For more information, go to the St Mary's MRI Therapy Centre Trust's website.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006