Tiny Radioactive Seed Makes a Big Difference in Breast Cancer Surgery

Radioactive seed localization is an innovative procedure that is used to help your surgeon localize cancers and other breast abnormalities which are too small to feel.

Roswell Park is the only hospital in Western New York to offer this new, more patient-friendly approach to pinpointing and removing very small breast cancers.

How it Works

Using a mammogram or ultrasound for guidance, a breast radiologist uses a thin needle to place a tiny seed into your breast to mark the exact location of the cancer. The procedure will take about 30 minutes. You will be awake, but the area will be numbed to prevent pain. Once in the operating room, surgeons use a handheld radiation detection device to zero in on the seed and precisely navigate to the location of the cancer, which is removed along with the seed during the operation. After the procedure, there is no radioactivity remaining in the body. The radiologist can perform this image-guided procedure up to two weeks before surgery.

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In the past, patients with such small breast cancers were required to undergo a procedure called breast needle localization, in which a radiologist inserted a wire into the breast to map the location of the cancer. The wire remained in the breast, poking out of the skin for several hours, to guide the surgeon during the operation. Studies suggest that radioactive seed localization is a more-precise removal of small breast cancers as compared to traditional breast needle localization. It reduces the need to have a second surgery due to incomplete removal of the abnormal tissue and helps to preserve healthy tissue.