Surgery without scalpels

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Heat, cold, or alcohol used to destroy tumors

Paul Simmons, a 29-year-old Maine farmer, suffered from a lung tumor. In February 2001, at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a probe containing a long needle was inserted into his chest and guided to the tumor by a scanning device. As Eric vanSonnenberg and his colleagues did the procedure, they could watch on a screen as the needle approached the lemon-sized tumor in Simmons’ right lung. When contact was made, a burst of radio waves produced enough heat to literally “cook” the malignancy. Simmons is impressed with the outcome. “I had an inoperable tumor; surgeons couldn’t reach it with their instruments,” he says. “In 20 minutes, it was gone. In three days, I was up and out of the hospital.”