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

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By Mitchell Consky

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TORONTO (CTV Network) — New Canadian technology is making it easier for surgeons to remove breast cancer tumors with minimal cosmetic damage and less pain for patients. And this technology is the size of a sesame seed.

The miniature locator app developed by Molli Surgical and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center has been approved by Health Canada and cleared by the FDA for commercial use.

“We all want to simplify the whole process of delivering breast cancer care,” Anath Ravi, president and CEO of Molli Surgical, told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday. “Easier for the patient. Easier for the radiologist to find the tumor and mark it for removal. And easier for the surgeon who has to remove the tumour.

Through the implantation of a miniature marking device, also called a “seed”, radiologists and surgeons are able to locate the tumor regions to be removed. With a hand-held detector, also called a “magic wand”, surgeons can then precisely remove tumors with minimal damage to the flesh.

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

“This benefits the patient because it gives them confidence 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 receive treatment using this new technology, told Your Morning that the seed location procedure was “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 upper side of her right breast during a medical examination in May. She discovered it two months after a routine mammogram which found no tumor.

“Of course it was very scary,” she recalls. “I contacted my doctor straight away and she arranged an ultrasound for me and it showed there was something wrong. I was sent for further examination. I had a biopsy. He came back with a marker, so it looked like it wasn’t quite right.

After her treatment team decided to do a lumpectomy, Alexander-Roper opted to have the seed implanted instead of the old procedure, which involved a radiologist inserting an intrusive wire to locate abnormal areas of the breast.

“It really made me feel a lot better. The people involved in having her inserted were all so nice. And then I had another mammogram to make sure she was set and in the right place, and then [the doctor] did the lumpectomy and he was able to get all the margins. He was able to tell my husband right away that everything was fine. It was just a huge relief for me.

Upon hearing that Alexander-Roper’s experience with this new procedure was seamless, Ravi said these results are “everything”.

“That’s why our team is working to bring this technology to Canadians close to home. We have a team of young innovators and this 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 to care for patients. That’s it for us.

Alexander-Roper is now “ready to go”, according to his doctor.

“I just need to have a mammogram every two years again. So that’s fine with me.”

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Mitchell Consky

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