FALL RIVER — New technology is making it easier for surgeons to locate and remove lumps in the breast, saving the patient time, aggravation and most importantly: breast tissue.
Dr. Maureen Chung, medical director of the Southcoast Health Breast Care Program, has brought the new technology — a tiny reflector implanted in the breast — to Southcoast.
In the past, patients would have to arrive several hours prior to their scheduled surgery to have a locator wire placed in the breast that stuck out externally and was taped down until their appointment time. The wire guided the surgeon to the lump being removed.
Chung said the new reflector, about as long as a dime with no external parts, takes the place of the wire.
“We always try to improve patient care and make things as comfortable as possible for the patient,” Chung said.
The 1.2-cm reflector is implanted using an ultrasound or x-ray in less than an hour under local anesthesia. It can be done up to 30 days before surgery. “You don’t feel it,” Chung said. “You don’t know it’s there. It’s tiny.”
Patients are able to return to work and other regular tasks right away. On surgery day, a radar signal leads the surgeon to the reflector and the lumpectomy is performed.
She said the wire is still “standard” in many healthcare settings. Southcoast Health is currently the only hospital using the technology in the area, though hospitals in Boston and elsewhere are looking at the technology, she said.
The other option is a seed implant to mark the tumor location, but that has drawbacks. Chung said patients don’t like the fact that the seed is radioactive. “It’s not ideal,” Chung said. “We were looking for something new,” she said. “No one likes to have something sticking out of their breast.” The wire method meant patients had to arrive hours before surgery for placement, could not eat or drink for a longer period of time, and were in discomfort. There was also a risk that the wire could move and cause pain, or need to be replaced.
Chung said the new SaviScout reflector implant causes less tissue loss for the patient and saves them unnecessary stress.
The new technology, after FDA approval and clinical trials, was presented at the 2016 American Society of Breast Surgeons where it received the Scientific Impact Award.