A nurse with stage 4 esophageal cancer has been in a five-year remission thanks to cryotherapy.
Karie Fisher, a nurse from Colorado, was initially fatigued six years ago in 2013 when she thought she might have had a vitamin D deficiency, which an estimated one billion people have worldwide 
Then, she began coughing up blood. Karie was admitted to a Denver hospital where eight days into her ten-day stay, she found out not only that she had stage 4 esophageal cancer, but that cancer had spread to her liver. At only 43 years old, doctors told her that her prognosis was terminal.
Esophageal cancer accounts for just one percent of all cancers in the United States—and Karie had no risk factors for the disease outside of the fact that she was overweight .
After unsuccessfully trying conventional treatments for her cancer, Karie found Dr. Toufic Kachaamy at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Phoenix, Arizona who introduced her to cryotherapy.
What Is Esophageal Cancer and Who’s at Risk?
Esophageal cancer is cancer of the esophagus, which is the long tube connecting your throat to your stomach where food travels. Risk factors for esophageal cancer include:
- Being over age 50
- Having frequent heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Being male
- Having a family history of the disease
- A poor diet lacking in fruits and vegetables
- Drinking very hot liquids frequently
Although Karie wasn’t the typical esophageal cancer patient, she was overweight, which is a risk factor for esophageal of cancer but not a major one .
Unfortunately, it’s not surprising that Karie’s cancer wasn’t found until it had advanced. While patients with multiple risk factors tend to be closely monitored, Karie didn’t seek or receive screening because she wasn’t “at risk” and so she went undiagnosed.
Had Karie been considered at risk for esophageal cancer, numerous tests could have been conducted to monitor her health and avoid an advanced-stage cancer diagnosis .
Conventional Treatment vs. Cryotherapy
Karie received chemotherapy and radiation for her cancer with no change to her tumor, which are the two recommended treatments for esophageal cancer at this time .
However, Dr. Toufic Kachaamy at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Phoenix suggested truFreeze, a type of spray cryotherapy that can specifically target Karie’s tumor in her throat.
Cryotherapy is otherwise known as cold therapy has been traditionally used for sports injuries but also for other painful conditions such as arthritis. However, recently cryotherapy has been used to treat cancer as the extreme cold can kill cancer cells with minimal damage to the neighboring tissue .
After three cryotherapy treatments, Karie’s tumor began shrinking until it was small enough to be surgically removed.
Cryotherapy offers many benefits over traditional chemotherapy and radiation. Unlike these treatments, cryotherapy is a local treatment, meaning it only treats the area receiving cryotherapy, not other parts of the body. The body then gets rid of the dead tissues over the course of a few weeks following the treatment.
Cryotherapy appears to be safe based on clinical trials so far, although more research on this treatment is needed. Most cryotherapy units have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) , .
The risks associated with cryotherapy are generally less severe than radiation. Risks include damage to surrounding tissue, loss of sensation if nerves are impacted, and greater risk of infection.
So how does it work? Liquid nitrogen or argon gas is run through a tube, or a probe, which is placed into contact with the tumor. The probe is guided via ultrasound or an MRI so your physician can closely monitor the freezing of cells to limit damage to nearby healthy tissues.
After the procedure, the frozen tissue thaws and is discarded by the body. Cryotherapy can also be used for external tumors.
The Growing Relevance of Alternative Therapies
Karie has been in remission for five years and says many patients don’t know enough about alternative cancer treatment options such as cryotherapy. Karie says she feels it’s important for people to know their options, not just to cure their disease but to improve their quality of life.
Karie’s story provides encouragement to others seeking alternative cancer treatments. In fact, a recent study showed that one out of three cancer patients in the United States uses alternative therapies but hides them from their doctors .
The study underscores the importance of cancer patients letting their doctors know about any and all alternative treatments, including herbal supplements they make be taking in order to receive the best care. This isn’t so doctors can discourage patients from exploring or even taking these remedies, per se—it’s about knowing how different compounds interact in order to best support the patient’s health.
Alternative therapies including herbal supplements can be very powerful and have just as much of an impact on the body as conventional medicines, so it’s important to let your doctor know what you’re taking, even if you’re afraid of being discouraged or judged.
Fortunately, with more effective alternative treatments becoming available such as in Karie’s case, we can learn how to strategically use certain cancer treatments to limit the potential toxic burden of conventional medicines that can often harm the body rather than heal.
Other Cryotherapy Cancer Applications
Although cryotherapy is not without its challenges or risks, it can also be effective in treating prostate tumors, liver tumors, retinoblastoma (cancer of the retina), skin cancer, and even precancerous conditions such as abnormal cell growth that can develop into cancer , .
Clearly, there needs to be more research and technological advancements done to enhance the efficacy of cryotherapy. However, there also appears to be a need for patients to understand their alternative treatment options in an effort to make the best decision for their treatment, such as in Karie’s case.
Cryotherapy appears to have a bright future in cancer and abnormal cell growth treatment that could dramatically improve cancer cases and patients’ quality of life!
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