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Community deploying new technology to improve breast cancer surgery

Community deploying new technology to improve breast cancer surgery

Surgeons and radiologists at Community Healthcare System now are using a new, tiny state-of-the-art wireless device to improve the surgical experience for women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.

Physicians at the Women's Diagnostic Centers have been deploying the Savi Scout wire-free radar location system during excisional biopsies, lumpectomies and other breast procedures. A Scout marking device about the size of a grain of rice is placed by the tumor whenever is convenient for the patient up to 30 days prior to the surgery to improve guidance, as well as the patients' comfort, peace of mind and overall surgical experience.

“At the Women’s Diagnostic Centers, we understand that breast cancer surgery can be physically and emotionally distressing for patients,” said breast radiologist Mary Nicholson, the director of Breast Imaging Services for Community Healthcare System. “We are always striving to find better ways to create a better experience and treat our patients the way we would treat our own loved ones. Scout resolves one of the most difficult uncomfortable aspects of breast conservation surgery by eliminating the need to place a wire inside the breast tissue to locate a tumor.”

The new technique replaces the traditional wire localization as the way to guide a surgeon to the legion or tumor that will be removed. Previously, patients would come in the morning before a surgery and have a wire or wires implanted in the breast tissue, with part of it jutting out. They could not have anything to eat or drink until the procedure when the doctor would follow the wire to the tumor.

“Psychologically, it is distressing to know you have a wire sticking out of your skin even if you can’t see it all the time due to the dressing or bandage,” Nicholson said. “Unlike the wire localization, the Savi Scout device, after it is placed in the breast, is not visible at all to the patient or anyone else. Patients are relieved that neither they nor anyone else will see or feel the device. It is designed to be a much more all-around comfortable patient-friendly way to localize for surgery.”

Another benefit is increased accuracy.

The new system uses infrared light and radar to locate the reflector within 1 mm of accuracy, increasing the chance of complete removal of the cancer.

“I personally like the Savi marker for two reasons,” said Janushi Dalal, a fellowship-trained breast radiologist on staff at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System. “First, for convenience sake, and second, it provides a little more precise localization.

"It’s mentally hard to come in, especially if you have cancer, and be walking around for a few hours with a wire sticking out from your breast. We understand that it can be a more sensitive experience when you make a patient feel as normal as possible and empower them to go through the surgery. The fact that we have the ability to do it is a game changer for us. I believe it is going to be the standard of care very soon.”

The more precise Scout Savi technique reduces the occurrence of follow-up surgery by better allowing surgeons to get it all the first time. 

“At the hospitals of Community Healthcare System, we are aiming, in terms of new technologies, to always be ahead of the curve,” Dalal said. “That is due in large part to our breast imaging director Dr. Nicholson making sure that we have this device available for our patients; something that is on par with other academic medical centers. I give her credit for seeing that we have locally the latest technologies that are changing and improving women’s care.”

Community Healthcare System operates Women's Diagnostic Centers in Crown Point, East Chicago, Hobart, Munster, St. John and Valparaiso.

For more information, visit COMHS.org/cancer or call 800-809-9828.

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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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