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Seed Localization: Improving Breast Cancer Surgery

May 22, 2012

The Dubin Breast Center of the Tisch Cancer Institute at The Mount Sinai Medical Center is one of only a handful of centers in the United States to offer a new, state-of-the-art procedure that allows surgeons to more precisely target and remove small breast tumors and provides patients with greater comfort and scheduling flexibility. Elisa R. Port, MD, FACS, a renowned surgeon, is Chief of Breast Surgery and Co-Director of the Dubin Breast Center.


For patients undergoing lumpectomy, the new procedure, called "seed localization," allows Dubin Breast Center surgeons to remove cancerous tissue with an exceptionally high degree of precision, thereby reducing the volume of tissue required for removal. The procedure also minimizes the amount of time patients need to spend in the hospital and in preparation on the day of surgery.


Seed localization represents an advance from a procedure, still widely used, called "needle localization." With needle localization, a patient would need to arrive at the hospital early on the day of surgery to have a fine wire placed in her breast to mark the location of the tumor. She would then have to wait with the wire protruding from her skin until surgery, when the wire would be removed along with the tumor.


With seed localization, a patient comes to the Dubin Breast Center up to five days before the surgery to have a tiny, radioactive seed about the size of a grain of rice implanted in her breast. Then, on the day of surgery, she goes directly to the operating room.


The seed localization procedure is performed under local anesthesia in an exam room by a specialized radiologist. The seed contains only a small amount of radioactive material, less than the amount given off by a standard X-ray. It is used strictly for tumor marking and is not a part of breast cancer treatment. The patient does not have to fast prior to having the seed implanted. The seed procedure involves minimal discomfort.


Once in the operating room, the surgeon uses a special handheld Geiger counter that detects the signal given off by the seed to zero in and remove the adjacent tumor along with the seed. No radioactivity remains in the breast once the tumor and seed are removed.

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