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muriel j smith 120 2018It’s four years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and four years since I’ve been free of it. I have  never had an iota of radiation or chemo and recognize I’m a very fortunate woman.

I also recognize that cryoablation, the cure for me, is not the cure for everyone. But four years after beginning a trial for it and finding it successful, it’s my opinion that if breast cancer is diagnosed, cryoablation should be considered an option. You have nothing to lose but cancer.

Meet Dr. Kenneth R. Tomkovich, MD  of Freehold,  a diagnostic radiologist, a physician who studies hard, knows much, and can even explain things at a level anyone can understand. He’s also a physician who believes in learning about new procedures, researching the companies involved with them, and then participating in a nation-wide trial to see if it can become the next best cure for cancer.

It was 27 days from the day in January, 2016, I had a routine mammography at Centra State Hospital in Freehold and met with physicians, surgeons, specialists, learned I had cancer, made the quick and easy decision and then became one of the first in the trial of cryoablation, freezing cancer cells with a needle insertion. The half hour procedure was done at Centra State, one of only 3 hospitals in New Jersey daring enough to find a cheaper, easier, less painful way to halt breast cancer. I reasoned at the time I had nothing to lose (but the awful cell); if it did not work, I could always resort to surgery.

I remember thinking at the time there was a reason why I was participating in a trial. After all, I only decided to have that mammography in the first place because my insurance would cover it and Centra State would give me a coupon for 50% off a massage at Hand and Stone. (they still do that, for every mammography) .  I was assured the procedure, only done twice before in New Jersey before me, would not keep me from a scheduled tourist trip to Israel two weeks after, and wouldn’t even keep me from driving 25 miles for a final meeting for that trip an hour or so after the procedure. I agreed to come back for mammographies and visits with Dr. Tomkovich once a year and keep in touch for five years so the results could be tabulated  accurately.   I eagerly signed all the papers because  it all just seemed too easy and too good to turn down.  It wasn‘t until after the procedure that I also learned that IceCure, the company that created the equipment, was an Israeli company and would love to bring me to their offices while on my trip to Israel. (Not only did they come to my hotel to pick me up, but I toured the office, met the entire staff, had a demonstration of the procedure I had undergone, then was treated to a sumptuous lunch at a magnificent restaurant on the Mediterranean before they brought me back to my hotel two hours from their Caesarea offices.)

I DON’T BELIEVE IN COINCIDENCES.    I BELIEVE THINGS HAPPEN FOR A REASON.

Now, four years later, I’m even more grateful I agreed to the trial.

The trial is ongoing, though now it’s just the tabulation of results, the readings of all the mammographies, and the comments of all the 500 women who have opted for cryoablation. The hospital no longer permits the procedure to be done there, since the procedure has not yet received federal sanctions.

But Dr. Tomkovich, who naturally continues to monitor and meet every patient, also continues to do the procedure  at his own office. He’s doing this with a sense of assurance…to date the success rate of no recurrence of cancer after the procedure is 99 per cent…..and he can also now do cryoablation on women younger than 65, the minimum age during the trial.  He’s thorough in  explaining to potential patients the equipment and procedure have not yet received federal approval. But he also can explain that if it  doesn’t ‘work,” there’s still the option for  other approved measures, including surgery. 

It will still more more than another year until I and others who tried it the first year it was available, can continue to be studied,  the federal Food and Drug Administration can compile all the records, the ICE Cure firm in Israel can continue to meet its high standards and other significant and protective steps are taken before the FDA gives its final approval to cryoablation  for breast cancer.

In the meantime, four years of being free from cancer because of a trial procedure that I could watch but not feel,  and knowing I am contributing to what could be a reduction in surgeries, angst, pain, radiation, and chemo for thousands of women, is pretty heady and wonderful stuff.

 

Also See:

Cancer Free Six Months Later   (Aug 2016)

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