Radioactive seed guides surgeons to breast tumors

5:00 PM, Aug 6, 2012   |    comments
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SCARBOROUGH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Cutting edge technology that is revolutionizing breast cancer surgery across the country, will soon be available in Southern Maine. Tiny radioactive seeds are being used to mark the location of breast cancer tumors, a method which is more precise and less painful for patients.

The most common approach to mark a breast cancer tumor, that are so small they can't be felt by touch, is having a wire placed in the patient's breast.

"Once this is centered in the tumor, we place this wire out through the needle into the breast and we removed the needle and this wire would be sticking out through the patient's skin," said Dr. Elizabeth Pietrus.

Dr. Pietrus is a Radiologist at Maine Medical Center's Breast Care Center. She says the surgeons use the wire to guide them to the tumor. Sometimes a patient must wait several hours before it can be removed, which can added more stress to a patient.

But a new method called Radioactive Seed Localization or RSL is changing the way breast cancer surgery is performed. The process uses a low dose radioactive seed, the size of a grain of rice.

"I would place that in the center of the tumor and then I would remove the needle and the patient can leave the department with either a small sterile strip or bandage over their skin with nothing sticking out of their skin," said Dr. Pietrus.

Dr. Pietrus says the method is provides surgeons more accuracy in removing all of the tumor. The seed localization procedure also offers patients, doctors and medical staff more flexibility and convenience when it comes to having surgery.

A lumpectomy can take place up to five days after the seed is placed in the tumor. The hope is by offering a less invasive method to surgery will reduce the fear among some women about mammograms and the possibility of a cancer diagnosis.

The RSL method will be available at Maine Medical Center's Cancer Institute's Breast Care Center in Scarborough in late August.


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