Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed female cancers, killing an estimated 627,000 women each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In this year alone, an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 62,930 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.
Detection of breast cancer in its earliest stages offers women the best long-term prognosis. With improved imaging techniques and more sensitive mammograms we are now detecting cancers at very small sizes. These tumors are often unable to be felt so in order for the surgeon to be able to accurately find them in the operating room we need a way of marking the tumor.
In the past, we used to place a wire into the tumor guided by either mammogram or ultrasound the morning of the surgery. This method, while effective, was not very comfortable for the patient.
The wire can also become dislodged before surgery and can lead to surgical delays and potentially another surgery later on as the surgeon may not be able to remove the entire tumor. This puts undue stress on everyone.
In seeking a solution for our patients, last year Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, Beverly Hospital and Lahey Outpatient Center, Danvers started to utilize a new magnetic surgical technology called Magseed to localize where the tumor is in the breast. Approved by the FDA, the Magseed® is a magnetic chip that is placed next to the tumor through a small needle. This is done a few days before the surgery at the patient’s convenience. At the time of surgery, the surgeon can locate the magnetic chip by using a small hand-held scanner. The marker gives off a signal which allows us to accurately determine where the tumor is located, enabling the surgeon to make a smaller incision.
But with all the advancements in breast cancer, early detection and awareness are critical in treating this disease and women should follow these simple guidelines for early breast detection:
Mammogram: Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.
Clinical Breast Exam: A clinical breast exam is recommenced every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over.
Breast awareness and breast self-exam: Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care provider. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s.
Breast MRI: Some women, because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors, should be screened with MRI in addition to mammography. (The number of women who fall into this category is small: less than 2% of all women in the US.) Talk with your doctor about your history and whether you should have additional tests at an earlier age.
Ashling O’Connor, MD, is a breast surgeon at the Breast Health Center at Lahey Outpatient Center, Danvers.