Technology the size of a sesame seed that makes breast cancer treatment less painful

By Mitchell Consky

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TORONTO (CTV Network) – New Canadian technology is enabling surgeons to more easily remove breast cancer tumors with minimal cosmetic defect and less pain for patients. And this technology is the size of a sesame seed.

Developed by Molli Surgical and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, the mini localization application has been approved by Health Canada and cleared for commercial use by the FDA.

“We’re about making the whole process of delivering breast cancer treatments easier,” Molli Surgical President and CEO Anath Ravi told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday. “Easier for the patient. Easier for the radiologist who needs to find the tumor and mark it for removal. And easier for the surgeon who needs to remove the tumor.”

By implanting a miniature marker device, also called a “seed,” radiologists and surgeons can locate tumorous regions for removal. Using a handheld detector, also called a “magic wand,” surgeons can then remove tumors with precision and minimal flesh damage.

No radiation is emitted from this marking device – which in turn is the size of a sesame seed.

“The patient benefits because it gives them peace of mind that the surgeon has the tools to remove the cancer with minimal cosmetic defects,” Ravi explained.

Angela Alexander-Roper, one of the first patients to be treated with this new technology, told Your Morning that the seed localization procedure is “absolutely painless”.

“When I had the lumpectomy, very little tissue was removed. You know, there’s a small amount, but very, very little,” she said.

Alexander-Roper found a lump on the top of her right breast during a gentle exam in May. She found it two months after a routine mammogram found no tumors.

“Of course it was very scary,” she recalls. “I contacted my doctor straight away and she organized an ultrasound for me and that showed something was wrong. I was sent for a more thorough investigation. I had a biopsy. It came back with a marker, so it looked like it wasn’t quite right.”

After her treatment team opted for a lumpectomy, Alexander-Roper chose to have the seed implanted instead of the older procedure, in which a radiologist inserted an intrusive wire to locate abnormal areas in the breast.

“It really made me feel a lot better. The people involved in the insertion were all very nice. And then I had another mammogram to make sure it had settled and in the right place and then [the doctor] did the lumpectomy and he was able to get all the edges. He was able to tell my husband immediately that everything is fine. It was just a huge relief for me.”

When Ravi heard that Alexander-Roper’s experience with this new process was seamless, he said those results were “everything.”

“That’s why our team is struggling to bring this technology to Canadians closer to home. We have a team of young innovators and that motivates them to keep looking for ways to improve the experience not only for patients but also for care teams who we know are completely overwhelmed with caring for patients. That’s all for us.”

According to her doctor, Alexander-Roper is now “fine to walk”.

“I just need a mammogram every few years. So that’s fine with me.”

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Mitchell Consky


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