July 21, 2005

HK surgeons upbeat on brain cancer removal method

HONG KONG (Reuters) - 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 tumors -- 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

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.