Thanks to advances in imaging technology, breast cancer is being detected earlier and earlier these days. As a result, treatment with advanced therapies is being initiated sooner, patient outcomes are improving, and mortality from this disease is on the decline. Earlier detection also means that a much greater percentage of breast cancers can be removed successfully via breast-conserving lumpectomy versus mastectomy.
Interestingly, early detection of breast cancer also presents a certain challenge to the surgeons whose job is to locate and remove the tumor with minimal damage to surrounding healthy tissue. As Michael McPhee, MD, of ProMedica Physicians Surgical Oncology explains, “Breast cancer patients used to present with palpable tumors—meaning you could actually feel them. Nowadays, the quality and resolution of imaging are so high that we can detect these cancers at a very early stage, before you can feel them. Consequently, surgeons now need some form of guidance to localize the cancer for removal during lumpectomy.”
The traditional method of marking breast cancer tumors is a technique called wire localization, in which a guide wire is inserted through the breast tissue and into the tumor. However, according to Dr. McPhee, this method presents several drawbacks. Among them is the fact that the wire can become displaced and migrate away from the target. Also, the wire is inserted on the morning of surgery, which adds to the patient’s anxiety and can affect the timeliness of surgery if there are any difficulties in placing the wire or it becomes dislodged. What’s more, it’s awkward and uncomfortable for the patient to walk around with the wire in place while awaiting surgery.
Wire localization is also challenging from the surgeon’s standpoint. “When using this technique, the surgeon is given two mammogram images to take into the operating room. Using just these two views and the guide wire, he or she has to visualize the tumor in three dimensions in order to perform the lumpectomy. That can be a bit tricky,” says Dr. McPhee.
The good news is, ProMedica Breast Care now offers a state-of-the-art technique for marking breast cancer tumors that is not only more effective than wire localization, but also significantly improves patient comfort. This new method involves the placement of a Magseed—a tiny piece of metal, smaller than a grain of rice—into the tumor. Then, during surgery, a magnetic probe called a Sentimag is used to detect the Magseed and guide the surgeon to the tumor with a high degree of precision.
“With this new technology, the surgeon can see exactly where the cancer is in real time and has a 360-degree view to work with rather than just two mammogram views. The accuracy is so great that it reduces the number of cancers we see with a positive margin—in other words, those with cancer cells present at the margin of the removed tissue,” Dr. McPhee states.
Placement of the Magseed is quick and easy and can be performed up to 30 days prior to surgery. Once implanted, the Magseed causes no discomfort to the patient and is very unlikely to migrate away from the target area or become dislodged. Furthermore, because this technique helps maximize the amount of healthy breast tissue left behind after surgery, it yields the best possible cosmetic outcome. ❦