The thought of surgery for breast cancer is frightening. Imagine thinking you might have to go in again if all of the cancerous tissue was not removed the first time. Advances in technology is saving that emotional and physical burden for many women.

Called the MarginProbe™ System, the technology is three times more effective in identifying cancer on the margin of a breast mass during a lumpectomy than traditional methods.

“During surgery, we always want to remove all of the cancer, but until this technology was developed, we couldn’t know for sure that we’d gotten it all until pathology tests were done after the procedure,” says David Edmonson, MD, a surgeon in the Breast Health Center at Women & Infants Hospital. “Now, we are in the operating room and we are better able to assess whether or not we’ve gotten clean margins around the cancer and that we are not leaving any cancer behind.”

The new device provides surgeons like Edmonson – and Drs. Ashley Stuckey and Jennifer Gass at Women & Infants –with real-time positive cancer detection for breast cancer patients during a lumpectomy.

This is important for several reasons:

  • Women may choose lumpectomy to conserve their breast tissue instead of mastectomy which removes the entire breast.
  • If the margins are determined not to be clean, a second surgery is needed before radiation to ensure that the cancer is gone.

With MarginProbe, however, there has been a 56-percent reduction in reoperation versus the standard of care.

“Lumpectomy and radiation are as effective in combating breast cancer as mastectomy, but only if there is a clean margin with no remaining cancer cells at the edge of the removed tissue,” Edmonson explains. “Unfortunately, the rates of reoperation if there is a positive margin in the breast can be as high as 30 percent.”

Using MarginProbe to ensure clean margins in the initial surgery helps reduce emotional distress for the patients, potential for scarring and deformation at the surgery site, and eliminates the increased cost of an additional surgery.

To ensure the clean margins, the surgeon uses the head of the disposable MarginProbe along the edge of the cancer site. The head contains the proprietary Fringe Field Sensor (FFS), which can detect minute differences in bioelectric properties in tissue when the surgeon presses the probe to the specimen. This allows the sensor to capture the tissue’s electromagnetic signature, which is either healthy or cancerous. The surgeon runs a series of measurements on each margin, collecting data for the entire specimen. With such real-time results, the surgeon can extend the margins to remove additional tissue if needed.

“This takes three to five minutes but makes a tremendous difference in the results and, ultimately, the patient’s satisfaction,” Edmonson says.

Learn More

For more information please visit the Breast Health Center at Women & Infants, or call (401) 453-7540.