Valley Medical Group News

New Approach to Pinpointing and Removing Small Breast Cancers

New Option Improves Patient Experience

The Valley Hospital is pleased to offer a more accurate and patient-friendly procedure to precisely pinpoint and remove small benign and cancerous breast tumors or abnormal breast tissue.

Valley is the first hospital in northern New Jersey to offer the procedure, called radioactive seed localization. It consists of a radiologist injecting a low-energy radioactive “seed” the size of a grain of rice into the breast tissue to mark the exact location of the tumor or abnormal tissue. In the operating room, the breast surgeon uses a handheld gamma detection probe (a device used to measure radioactivity) to locate the seed and remove both it and the abnormal breast tissue. When there is a diagnosis of breast cancer, the procedure allows removal of the cancerous tissue and the margins around the tumor. The radioactive seed is not dangerous and only emits enough radiation to allow for detection by the breast surgeon. Breast surgeon Laura Klein, M.D, Medical Director of The Valley Hospital Breast Center, confirms: “Once the seed is removed with the breast tissue, all radioactivity is eliminated.”

Radioactive seed localization in many cases may replace the need for wire-localization – a procedure that involves inserting a guide wire into the breast several hours prior to surgery, leaving the wire protruding from the skin until removal in the operating room. “Radioactive seed localization offers a much more convenient and certainly much more comfortable option for our patients,” said radiologist Jaclyn Calem-Grunat, M.D., Director of Breast Imaging at Valley. “We can place the seed the day before (or several days before) surgery, and then the patient can return for surgery closer to the time of the procedure without the discomfort of having the wire in place while she waits.”

Bergen County resident Corrin McCarthy was the first patient to undergo the radioactive seed localization procedure at Valley in preparation for a breast biopsy. “Having had both the wire and the seed procedures, I can say that I have found the seed to be much more comfortable and convenient than the wire,” she said. “I am particularly excited about the fact that patients can have the seed placed up to 5 days in advance so that when you come into Valley for surgery, there’s no additional procedure to do and no added waiting time. That’s definitely an added benefit.”

Breast surgeon Tihesha Wilson, M.D., Assistant Medical Director of The Valley Hospital Breast Center, performed McCarthy’s biopsy using the seed localization procedure and commented, “I am very pleased to be able to offer radiation seed localization to our patients. I found that utilizing the radiation seed allowed for greater precision during the surgery resulting in less disruption of healthy breast tissue.”

Dr. Klein added, “Because seed localization is more precise than the wire-localization procedure, it allows us to know the exact location of the tumor and more accurately plan the surgical incision, which allows the scar to be placed in the most cosmetically preferably place. A study from the Mayo Clinic showed that this precision also helps ensure we have removed all the abnormal tissues, which decreases the risk of needing a second surgery.”

“Thankfully, with mammography and our advanced imaging techniques, we are detecting tumors at earlier stages that are smaller than ever before,” Dr. Calem-Grunat said. “Seed localization helps us to target those very small tumors, while minimizing the time the patient spends in the hospital and in preparation on the day of surgery.”