Surgeons in Hong Kong who invented a less-invasive way of removing cancers from the base of the brain said on Thursday that patients had had no complications after the treatment and ran very little risk of relapse.
Doctors traditionally remove these tumours - which occur between the roof of the nasal cavity and the base of the front part of the brain - through extensive surgery, which requires cutting open the face, removing nasal bones and a craniectomy.
But this procedure is invasive and results in severe facial pain, as well as permanent facial deformity, numbness and scars.
In 1996, doctors at the University of Hong Kong developed a less-invasive way to remove such cancers.
Using endoscopes and forceps inserted through the nose, surgeons cut off nasal tissues and bones to isolate the tumour, which is then removed through craniectomy.
The team has since performed 12 such surgeries. While up to 66 percent of patients who have undergone traditional open-face surgery run a risk of relapse, the problem has recurred for only one of the 12 patients treated under the new method.
“None of them had complications after the treatment. There was only one patient who had local recurrence,” Yuen Po-wing, otorhinolaryngology professor at the University of Hong Kong, told a news conference.
The team published its invention of the procedure in 1997 in the American Journal of Otolaryngology after it performed its first and successful case in 1996.
It published another paper in the international journal Head & Neck this June when they found that patients who underwent the treatment ran a much lower risk of a relapse.
“Using the endoscope is actually better because it magnifies the area and we can see even better than using the naked eye in open face surgery,” Yuen said. “This procedure also avoids cutting open the face, thus there is no injury caused to the face and facial nerves.”
However, Yuen said the less-invasive surgery was suitable only for cancers that have not grown too large and spread to nearby places such as the brain and the eyes.
“In severe cases with delayed treatment, patients may need more aggressive surgical and radiotherapy treatment, resulting in disfiguring surgical wounds and loss of sight,” he said.
People with such cancers suffer symptoms like persistent nosebleeds and nasal congestion.
Revision date: June 18, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.