Vancouver hospital first in B.C. to use MOLLI magnetic ‘seed’ to help remove breast cancer tumours

Click to play video: 'New less-invasive, breast cancer surgery technique'
New less-invasive, breast cancer surgery technique
WATCH: Surgeons at the Providence Breast Centre at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital are the first in B.C. to use a new, less-invasive technology to perform lumpectomies. Catherine Urquhart reports. – Apr 4, 2023

A Vancouver hospital says it’s the first in B.C. to use a magnetic non-radioactive “seed” — smaller than a grain of rice — along with a wand and tablet to help remove tumors in breast cancer patients, improving their comfort and recovery.

The Providence Breast Centre at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital has been using the MOLLI package of technology, including n for months but announced it on Monday.

During a typical procedure, the seed is inserted directly into the tumour, marking its location. A magnetic wand is then rolled over the breast to detect the device and remove the tumour with greater accuracy, with readings provided on a tablet.

“Prior to this technology, we had insertion of little wires that would come into the patient’s breast,” said Dr. Amy Bazzarelli, a surgical oncologist at the Providence Breast Centre.

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“They would be placed on the day of surgery, so it was a long day and patients would have to arrive very early to have those wires placed.”

The wires would stay taped to the breast, sticking out, while a mammogram image was taken. That image would then guide the surgeons, but Bazzarelli said the method was less “distinct” and “accurate.”

According to the Providence Breast Centre, breast cancer affects 2,800 women in B.C. per year, resulting in about 600 deaths. The centre performs about 1,200 breast cancer surgeries every year.

Kim Brown, who has experienced both methods of breast cancer treatment, said the magnetic seed method made a “100 per cent difference” in her overall experience. She had one surgery at the centre in 2005 and one last year.

“The first one was so traumatic, and it hurt and I had to use humour to get through it,” Brown told Global News. “I had wires coming out one side of me and wires coming out the other side … they took a lot of my breast tissue out.

“With the seed version, they put it in three days before my surgery — no pain, super easy.”

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Brown said the seed surgery also resulted in less tissue removal and a shorter recovery time.

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The magnetic seed technology was pioneered in Toronto. Brown said she thinks she was one of the first 10 women in B.C. to be treated with one and she was given a choice to use the wire method.

The 59-year-old survivor recommended the seed option to other patients in B.C., if they’re given a choice.

“Less stress for you and your family. Definitely, a better way to go,” she said.

The Royal Columbian Hospital was the first in B.C. to use radioactive seeds to help treat breast cancer, with the Fraser Health Authority having committed to fully transitioning from wires to seeds.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect new information provided by Providence Health Care, which specified after publication that it was the first B.C. hospital to use MOLLI seed, wand and tablet technology. Other seed technology has been previously been used in B.C. hospitals. 


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