by Kimberli S. Cox, MD (Nov. 20, 2013) GLENDALE, Ariz. (June 5, 2012) – What used to begin with the sometimes painful placement of a guide wire in a patient’s breast to mark the location of a breast abnormality can now be done with a much more precise and less painful method now available at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center. The procedure is called Radioactive Seed Localization, or RSL. The process uses a thin needle to place one or two tiny radioactive seeds – about the size of a grain of rice – directly at the site of the abnormality. The procedure takes about 15 minutes from start to finish with minimal discomfort. The radiation in the seed is not dangerous. It gives off only enough radiation to act as a marker for the surgeon.
The radioactive seed allows the surgeon to accurately remove the abnormal tissue, the seed and ideally, if cancer is found, additional tissue in the margins around the cancer. Radiation or chemotherapy may still be required after surgery.
The previous and still most common approach to marking an abnormality that can only be seen through mammography is to place a guide wire in the patient’s breast in the morning, and then have surgery later in the day. By using RSL, discomfort with the wire is eliminated. Additionally, the seeds can be implanted up to five days prior to surgery, offering more scheduling flexibility for patients and surgeons.
On the day of surgery, the surgeon uses a detection device that pinpoints the radioactive seeds, identifying the exact location of the abnormality so it can be removed.
According to Banner Thunderbird breast surgeon Kimberli Cox, MD, who has been trained to perform the procedure, RSL provides a level of accuracy not typically found with the wire method, meaning the surgeon is better able to remove all of the abnormal tissue. This, in turn reduces the chances of having to perform a second surgery to remove additional tissue.
“We are proud to be able to offer the RSL technique and are positioning Banner Thunderbird as the place to go for RSL in the West Valley,” Dr. Cox said. Dr. Cox is the only breast surgeon at Banner Thunderbird who is currently using RSL as part of her plan of care for her patients.
About Banner Thunderbird Medical Center
Banner Thunderbird Medical Center – part of Banner Health, a nonprofit health system with 23 hospitals throughout the West—is a 514-bed hospital offering surgical services, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency care, behavioral health services and heart care. It is Glendale’s largest private employer with 2,800 employees and 1,200 physicians.