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Tiny Technology, Big Difference for Patients Who Need Breast Cancer Surgery

June 22, 2022

Across Hartford HealthCare, breast cancer patients who need certain types of surgery can now get in sooner, get out faster and be more comfortable throughout – all thanks to technology that’s smaller than a grain of rice. Many patients with early-stage breast cancer or a suspicious lump need to have breast-conserving surgery like a lumpectomy or partial mastectomy. The key to these surgeries is having a precise way to target the tumor, so a skilled surgeon can remove all of the abnormal tissue while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible. Until recently, the standard approach has been to place a wire through the patient’s skin and into the tumor, guiding the surgeon’s probe exactly where it needs to go. While this is effective, it’s usually not the most convenient or comfortable experience for patients: On the day of surgery, they must first have the guide-wire inserted by a radiology team, then often wait around for several hours – still fasting, and now with a wire protruding from their skin – until the time of surgery. Because both the radiology team and the surgical team must be available on the day of surgery, scheduling options tend to be limited, too. Hartford HealthCare’s seed localization program provides a high-tech, lower-stress alternative. Instead of a wire, a tiny nonradioactive “seed” is implanted in the tumor. The seed then guides the surgical probe using either magnetism or radiofrequency, depending on the model (for example, MagSeed and LOCalizer). This approach is just as effective as wire localization, and for many patients, it’s a better experience all around, from scheduling right through to the day of surgery. Unlike a guide-wire, a seed won’t move once it’s placed, so a patient can have it inserted in advance, at their convenience, and have their surgery days or weeks later. In fact, a seed can safely stay in a patient’s breast for life. That simplifies surgery scheduling, which means patients have lots more appointments to choose from. And of course, on the day of surgery, they’ll spend hours less at the surgery center – and zero hours dealing with a wire. For many patients, that means they get the surgery they need sooner – and have less to worry about along the way. “As a patient, there are so many things on your mind when you’re getting ready for any procedure. You’re thinking about all the steps you have to get through before you’re back home again, and you want every one of those steps to go smoothly. For patients who need breast-conserving surgery, our seed localization program helps streamline the process, and eliminate some of those anxieties,” says Heather King, MD, FACS, Hartford Hospital’s director of breast surgery. Since introducing the technology in 2021, Hartford HealthCare now offers seed localization at its surgery centers at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, The Hospital of Central Connecticut, MidState Medical Center, Backus Hospital, Hartford Hospital, and St. Vincent’s Medical Center. Its surgeons perform the procedure for dozens of breast cancer patients each week. “We’re proud to offer the seed localization program across all of our breast surgery centers,” says Dr. King. “Every day, this tiny technology makes a big difference for patients’ comfort, convenience and peace of mind.”

Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute