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Lakeside Women’s Hospital, part of the INTEGRIS network, is the first facility in Oklahoma to offer a new, more patient-friendly approach to pinpointing and removing very small breast cancers.

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Tiny Radioactive Seed Makes a Big Impact in Breast Cancer Surgery

OKLAHOMA CITY (July 21, 2016) – Lakeside Women’s Hospital, part of the INTEGRIS network, is the first facility in Oklahoma to offer a new, more patient-friendly approach to pinpointing and removing very small breast cancers.

The innovative procedure is called radioactive seed localization. Using a mammogram or ultrasound for guidance, Charles Groves, M.D., a breast radiologist and medical director of the INTEGRIS Comprehensive Breast Center of Oklahoma, uses a thin needle to place a tiny metal seed into the breast to mark the exact location of the cancer. The implanted seed contains a small amount of radiation that helps the surgeon locate the area of abnormal tissue during surgery when it is too small to be seen or felt by hand.

“Until now, patients with such small breast cancers were required to undergo a procedure called breast needle localization, in which we would insert a wire into the breast to map the location of the cancer,” says Groves. “The wire remained in the breast, projecting out of the skin for several hours until the surgery. The wire was used to guide the surgeon during the operation.”

With the RSL approach, as it is called, the seed is implanted and the patient is allowed to go home and rest comfortably until their surgery date later that week. Denise Rable, M.D., an INTEGRIS breast surgical oncologist at Lakeside, uses a handheld radiation detection device to zero in on the seed and precisely navigate to the location of the cancer, which is removed along with the seed during the operation. Removal of appropriate breast tissue as well as the radioactive seed is confirmed with state of the art intraoperative 3D imaging of the specimen. After the procedure, no radioactivity remains in the body.

“Studies suggest that radioactive seed localization can provide a level of accuracy not typically found with the wire method, which in turn allows for a more-precise removal of small breast cancers,” says Rable. “It can reduce the need to have a second surgery due to incomplete removal of the abnormal tissue, and helps to preserve healthy tissue. Additionally, patient comfort and convenience are markedly improved with radioactive seed localization when compared to wire localization procedure.”

The radioactive seed is strictly used for tumor marking. It does not replace radiation or chemotherapy as a method of treating the cancer.