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Radioactive seeds offer hope in breast cancer surgery

June 15, 2011

A small radioactive “seed,” approximately the size of a piece of rice, offers new hope to breast cancer patients who must undergo surgery to remove a tumor. The technique, called radioactive seed localization, combines advanced radiologic imaging with precise tumor localization to remove breast tumors with minimal disturbance to surrounding breast tissue.

Dr. Susan Beck, medical director of Katzmann Breast Center at Mercy, and Dr. Charles Goldman, oncologic surgeon, are currently the only physicians in Iowa approved to perform this leading-edge surgical technique, which offers many benefits to breast cancer patients and the surgeons who treat them.

The radioactive seed is actually a metal capsule containing a small amount of radioactive material, inserted with a simple needle in the breast at the tumor site. The seed may be placed up to five days before the operation. The amount of radiation given off by the radioactive seed is less than the amount emitted from a standard chest X-ray. During surgery, doctors are able to pinpoint the tumor using a hand-held Geiger counter. This procedure guides the surgeon to the precise location to make the incision so the cancer and radioactive seed can both be removed.

The alternative to radioactive seed localization is wire localization, a procedure where a cumbersome guide wire is inserted into the breast, which is less comfortable for the patient and may not allow for the same precision in surgical margins.

"Seed localization is a wonderful advancement in the treatment of breast cancer,” Dr. Beck said of the new procedure. “It’s much more comfortable for the patient and also more efficient and precise for the physicians performing the surgery. We’re very excited to be the first in Iowa to offer this state-of-the-art option for our breast cancer patients.”

Contact Gregg Lagan
Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines

515-247-3050
cell 515-490-6636


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