A doctor at the Mayo Clinic Scottsdale has developed a technology that enables surgeons to be more precise in removing tiny breast-cancer tumors undetectable by touch.
The technology utilizes a rice-size radioactive "seed" injected where a tumor has been identified in a mammogram.
A surgeon can then locate the tumor by using a hand-held Geiger counter to determine exactly where an incision should be made.
The seed procedure was developed by Dr. Rick Gray, a surgical oncologist, in 2001 and is currently undergoing Food and Drug Administration clinical trials.
The only device now available that can guide a surgeon through surgery is a wire passed through a patient's skin to the tumor's location. The wire must be implanted the day of surgery, lengthening the time of the procedure, and hangs outside a patient's body before the lumpectomy.
The seed changes all that.
"It can be injected up to five days in advance of surgery so it's more convenient to patients, and patients don't have to fast to do it," Gray said.
But "the most important thing is that this technology allows us to be more precise when operating for breast cancer," he said.
Chandler resident Lorraine Carey, 51, underwent Gray's procedure in January.
Her cancer, which was small and did not show up on an ultrasound, was detected during a mammogram. She said the seed implantation was quick and easy, and she felt nothing. She also said it made her more confident knowing "they were exactly where they needed to be."
Those wishing to participate in the current clinical trial may call the Mayo Clinic Scottsdale Breast Clinic at (480) 301-6999. Women who have breast cancer that was detected by mammogram or ultrasound but is not felt are eligible to participate.
The seed emits less radioactivity than a standard X-ray, Gray said.