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Operating-room suite reduces need for second breast-cancer surgery

August 26, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Hearing the diagnosis of breast cancer is hard enough. But imagine having to go back in for a second surgery. Now doctors in Boston are developing a new approach they hope will reduce that for many breast cancer patients.

Surgery to remove breast cancer is hard enough to do once, but about up to 50 percent of patients nationwide will have to go in again.

Now the first of its kind $20-million operating suite at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston may put an end to repeat breast surgeries. It's called the AMIGO (Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating) Suite, and it's been a friend to breast cancer survivor Jane Davis.

"I've never been in a hospital, I've never had surgery, I've never had anesthesia, so I was really, really nervous," said Davis.

The AMIGO allowed Davis's doctor to take an MRI during her lumpectomy to make sure he had cancer-free margins.

"An MRI machine comes in from the ceiling and then looks at the area that I've removed to see if I've removed the tumor in its entirety," said Dr. Mehra Golshan.

Next door is a positron emission tomography and CT scan room that can also be used during surgery.

"There is no other operating room where you can actually use an MRI or a PET scan at the same time," said Golshan.

Surgical teams can view all of the patients' images on large monitors, making surgeries more precise.

The goal is to create more of these operating rooms.

There's also new tool called the MarginProbe. It helps surgeons spot cancer cells on the edges of breast tissue right in the operating room. It senses the electrical signatures of cancer.

"Cancer cells tend to have different electrical signals, different cell properties, than normal cells," said Dr. Deanna Attai. "And this test has been found to be about 70-percent accurate."

Clinical trials show the MarginProbe significantly reduces the need for additional surgeries.

Breast cancer surgeons say women who need to undergo surgery should ask their doctors what their re-excision rate is. If it's higher than the national average of 30 to 50 percent, then it might be a good idea to find a surgeon with a lower rate.