Radioactive 'seeds' help locate small breast tumors
By Megan Harris
Published: Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
William Poller rattled the tiny vial of radioactive material in front of a gleaming screen filled with images of cancerous mammograms.
“This little guy right here, you see it?” he said, plopping the pellet beside a handful of formidably long needles. “This is making a big difference for patients with small breast lesions.”
Poller, director of breast imaging at Allegheny Health Network, is one in a team of physicians implementing a new technique for pinpointing small breast tumors using implanted radioactive seeds about the size of a grain of rice that allow surgeons to target the tiny tumors less invasively.
The new method gives patients and surgeons greater flexibility to schedule and complete the procedure while minimizing discomfort, breast surgeon Kathleen Erb said.
Previously, patients came in a few hours before their surgery so radiologists could insert a thin wire into the tumor using a long, hollow needle. Surgeons used the wire to help locate the tumor for removal.
“But the best point of entry to connect the wire to a tumor may or may not be the best or least invasive way to approach the tumor surgically,” Erb said. “With the radioactive seeds, patients can come in one to five days before the procedure without all the down time or discomfort.”
Surgeons use gamma probes to find the seed, carving around it and the nearby tumor. Erb said seed localization is an option only for patients for whom breast preservation is deemed a safe treatment option.
Piloted by the Mayo Clinic, the procedure took about a year to bring to Allegheny County. Erb and several colleagues traveled to a Mayo affiliate in Jacksonville for intensive training followed by months of paperwork when they returned.
“It took a while to get everything approved and rewrite some of the protocol, but we've performed maybe a dozen now,” she said. “It seems like most surgeons find pretty quickly they really prefer the seed to the wires. Certainly that's true for me.”
A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Surgery found using the radioactive seeds reduced the need for repeat surgery by 50 percent compared to the wire method. The procedure is performed in hospitals nationwide, including cancer treatment centers in Nebraska, New York, Iowa, Colorado, Arizona, Florida and Michigan.
Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Neighbor in East Liberty sisters’ slayings may be part of murder-for-hire case
- FirstEnergy last to get smart meter OK
- Qualifications of Peduto nominee for building inspection chief come up short
- On Pittsburgh visit, EU Ambassador says $15B aid package to Ukraine signal of support
- Casey says C-130s to remain into ’15 at Moon base, but squadron will lose jobs
- CCAC to offer early retirement incentives
- Portion of South Busway to be detoured Friday
- State Superior Court denies ex-Sen. Jane Orie’s corruption appeal
- PennDOT cash eases road repair pain in Lawrence County
- Newsmaker: Charlotte Lott
- Carnegie Library board adds three members