This Innovative Technology Reduces the Need for Second Surgeries

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One of the most difficult parts of a lumpectomy (for your surgeon, at least) is knowing exactly how much tissue needs to be taken away. The surgery is a careful balancing act between making sure all of the cancer is removed and still leaving the patient with as much healthy tissue as possible. Surgeons generally remove the entire tumor and a chunk of the surrounding flesh known as the “margin” in an attempt to ensure the cancer is completely gone.

As a patient, of course, you’ll be hoping and praying that the doctor manages to get the right amount of tissue the first time. Sadly, as with any balancing act, it’s not going to happen exactly the right way every time, no matter how hard your doctor tries or how much experience he or she has. Cancer just isn’t as predictable as we’d all like it to be.

But MarginProbe is aiming to change that. Now surgeons can scan the margins surrounding a tumor using electromagnetic waves before they even close up the incision. They get answers right away so they can find and remove any cancerous cells that may be lingering after a lumpectomy. If any more cancer is found, extra tissue can immediately be removed, reducing the need for second surgeries for margins that aren’t completely “clean,” or “negative,” meaning cancer-free.

Dr. Robert Wascher is a surgical oncologist and chief of surgery at CTCA Western, as well as a clinical professor of surgery at the University of Arizona College of Medicine (Phoenix). He is one of the first doctors to use the MarginProbe device, which is only available in a select few hospitals in the U.S. so far.

“Previously, the only option available for accurately testing the margins of breast tissue removed by lumpectomy was to send that tissue to a lab, which requires several days before the final results become available,” says Dr. Wascher.

The procedure-within-a-procedure takes just five minutes to complete and gives doctors immediate answers about whether they’ve removed enough tissue to be able to tell patients they’re cancer-free. It has been approved by the FDA since 2012 and has recently been touted as the first big advancement in margin assessment in 30 years.

Thousands of surgeries have already been performed using this technology, and it’s been shown to have a high success rate. We’re sure there are millions more success stories in MarginProbe’s future!

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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?