A unique treatment for breast cancer: laser surgery


Like so many patients with breast cancer, Melissa Rabe was devastated when she was diagnosed with a triple negative breast cancer in January, 2015. She had already lost her sister to the disease 25 years ago.

“Because this is in my family history, I was discouraged,” Rabe, who lives in New York City, told “But I have the feeling that I had to find a better way to combat this diagnosis.”

Treatments for women varies from case to case, but Dr. Vincent Ansanelli, a breast cancer surgeon at Laser Breast cancer Surgery in Long Island, New York, offered a option, Rabe was unfamiliar with— laser treatment for breast cancer surgery.

Instead of using a scalpel to cut and remove a tumor, doctors use a carbon dioxide laser. When the intense beam of light touches the tissue of the breast or otherwise— it ensures that the tissue to evaporate.

“I am dissecting by means of evaporation,” he told Ansanell

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Ansanelli, the pioneer of the laser technique, said it has advantages over the traditional scalpel surgery

“I’m vaporize the tissue around my incision like a knife, but [at the same time] the sealing of small lymphatic vessels and blood vessels, so there is little to no bleeding and little to no spread when an,” Ansanelli said.

Rabe had a very aggressive diagnosis and feared a traditional surgery may cause her cancer to spread. According to the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, the probability of cancer cells spreading to other parts of the body through the use of a scalpel is extremely low.

Don’t want to take the risk, Rabe scheduled laser surgery with Ansanelli in May 2015.

During the procedure, the laser also cleans the area in order to reduce the potential spread of cancer cells.

“The laser is not only decompose, destroying tumor cells,” Ansanelli said.

In animal studies, the local recurrence rate after tumor resection is done with a carbon dioxide laser was about 30 percent less than normal, he added.

However, not all doctors are convinced of the procedure’s effectiveness.

“Usually you would like to see some studies that show that the man on the basis of benefits,” Dr. Beth Anglin, the medical director of The Breast Center Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at The Medical Center of Plano in Plano, Texas, told “I would think [universities and cancer centers] would be used—they have used newer technologies, like other radio frequency modalities and Cryoablation— but I haven’t heard anything about laser treatments.”

In contrast to scalpel surgery, the laser procedure requires only local anesthesia and requires no hospitalization or post-surgical medication.

After Ansanelli a mastectomy performed on Nikki Rash, 51 stage 4 cancer of the breast of the patient from Lakeland, Florida, she was ready to go home within the hour.

“I feel pretty good, of course I am a bit of a pain, but I feel good,” said Rash speaking immediately after the procedure.

Ansanelli usually recommends an extra strength Tylenol for patients who have a feeling of discomfort or fatigue after the surgery.

“There are a number of patients who do not require anesthesia, but other than that it sounds very interesting,” Dr. Laura Kruper, chief of the breast surgery service at City of Hope in Duarte, California, told “As long as we have more data, it can be something that we all should try to offer I’m curious and want to learn more.”

In 2016, nearly 300,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, according to

“When I got my diagnosis, I made a promise to my parents that they would not bury two daughters in their life,” Rabe said.

After the removal Ansanelli sends the tumors in a lab for a full analysis to determine whether further treatment is needed. Typically, a form of systemic therapy, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy is recommended.

“This tool has been around for decades and it should be a choice,” Rabe said. “When you the treatment choices that you feel, and you feel strong and ready, willing and able to make this diagnosis.”

Today, Rabe is in complete remission.

The carbon dioxide laser method was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is used for the treatment of head and neck, the tongue and the vocal cord cancer. Insurance provides coverage of a portion of the cost of the surgery.

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