Advertisement

New tool developed in London, Ont. expected to drastically reduce repeat breast cancer surgeries

Lawson researchers have developed a hand-held photoacoustic imaging probe to be used during breast conserving surgery.
Lawson researchers have developed a hand-held photoacoustic imaging probe to be used during breast conserving surgery. via Lawson Health Research Institute

Researchers out of Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ont. have developed a new tool that they believe can greatly improve surgery outcomes and reduce time in the operating room for breast cancer patients.

Surgeries for breast cancer usually involve either complete breast removal or removal of a tumour, which is called breast conserving surgery.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia first province to include breast density results in all mammograms

Dr. Jeffrey Carson’s laboratory is behind the new tool — a hand-held photoacoustic imaging probe.

“In real time, the surgeon can go in there, detect that tumour, cut it away, and then go back with the probe and verify that they’ve got all of the tumour,” he explained to 980 CFPL.

The hand-held photoacoustic imaging probe provides major improvements in breast conserving surgery, which currently involves surgeons waiting for data to determine whether or not all cancerous cells were removed.

Story continues below advertisement

“The wait was anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour,” said Dr. Muriel Brackstone, associate scientist at Lawson and head of the Breast Care Clinic at St. Joseph’s Hospital London.

“During that time, the patient is under anesthesia, the surgical team is idle and precious [operating room] time is being used.”

READ MORE: Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy linked to small, preterm babies in southwestern Ontario: study

Under the status quo, roughly one in five surgeries fails to catch all of the cancerous cells. The team, however, believes the new tool — which can catch up to 75 per cent of missed tumour cells in real time — can reduce that rate to one in 20.

— with files from 980 CFPL’s Jess Brady.

The emotional toll of breast cancer
The emotional toll of breast cancer