Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Joy Taylor is about to have a lumpectomy. Her doctor is using a new FDA-approved device that helps breast cancer patients avoid additional surgery.
“The process of this is frightening enough, the last thing I want to do is do it twice,” she says.
“If they’re not clear of tumor, it would often mean the lady has to come back and have another operation,” explains Allegheny General Hospital breast surgeon Dr. Kathleen Erb.
The Margin Probe system is able to detect cancerous cells on the edges of removed tumor tissue so doctors know if they’re getting all the cancer.
It takes just a few minutes for the surgeon to wave the wand-like device over the tumor to detect the different electromagnetic signals that malignant and healthy cells give off. If the only signals are from healthy cells, there is a safe, “clean” margin.
This is an additional step to what a surgeon might ordinarily do.
In many cases, the surgeon takes the tumor with a margin of tissue, and immediately sends the specimen to a pathologist. The pathologist takes thin slices and checks to see if the edges are clear of cancer.
If not, the pathologist may call the operating room, to advise the surgeon to cut more.
“You could go ahead immediately and perhaps take more tissue in that particular direction,” says Dr. Erb.
In studies, when the Margin Probe is used with a pathologist’s exam, and ultrasound, it can reduce the rate of tumor cells seen at the edges of the removed tissue by 50 percent.
“Everybody has been beyond helpful and kind,” she says.
And she’s thankful for tumor-free margins.