While the patient is under local anaesthetic a pencil-sized probe is inserted into the tumour and blasts it with liquid nitrogen. Encased in a frozen ball, the tumour is destroyed within seconds and the patient can go home.
At present even small tumours have to be removed under general anaesthetic leaving a disfiguring three-inch scar. When the tumour is killed by freezing, the dead cells are absorbed into the body so the breast keeps its shape. One doctor who uses the technique says patients are left with hardly a mark.
It is due to arrive in Britain later this year. Doctors hope the procedure will be used routinely in five years.
“Patients think it is fantastic. We biopsy the tumour then treat it all in a few minutes. After a few days it is almost impossible to see where the probe went in,” the Daily Express quoted US-based surgeon Dr Andrew Kenler, who uses cryotherapy at Bridgeport Hospital, Connecticut, part of Yale University, as saying.