Just about three months ago, in July, Cathy Propst began her battle with breast cancer.
“They detected that I had a tumor,” she said.
Propst was a patient at St. Mary’s hospital in Jefferson City. She worked with physician Dr. Anne Petersen. Petersen told her she would need a lumpectomy.
During a lumpectomy, surgeons attempt to remove cancerous tumors or lumps from one or both breasts. It’s different from a mastectomy, where the breast or breasts are completely removed.
Ideally, doctors hope to remove a tumor during the lumpectomy and test it on the spot to make sure all the cancer is gone from the breast. If doctors find any cancerous tissue on the margin of the tumor or lump, chances are there is still some left in the breast.
But Dr. Jonathan Roberts at St Mary’s Hospital said surgeons have long struggled to immediately get those results, and often have to wait several days after the surgery.
“Over the years we’ve tried innumerable things to try and decrease the number of people who need to be brought back for a second operation,” he said. “We’ve put in multiple wires, localized the cancer with an ultrasound before surgery, we get MRIs. Still, across the country, about one-third of women need to have a second operation to remove the breast cancer.”
Dr. Roberts is the first surgeon in Missouri to use a new device called a MarginProbe. They were able to offer its use to Propst for her surgery.
The technology has been available in Israel and Europe for some time, but has only recently been available in the states.
The MarginProbe uses radio frequency spectroscopy to detect cancerous cells in the removed tumor while the patient is still in surgery, cutting the possibility of a second operation in half.
“When I talk to my patients about it, I kind of call it the sniffer,” said Dr. Petersen. “Really what it does is look at the margin assesses on the lump we remove from the woman’s breast, it looks at the edges to see if any tumor is still present or not. It’s main function is to look and see, did we get it all.”
Dr. Roberts said in the time he’s been using the MarginProbe on breast cancer patients, none of them have had to come back for a second surgery or receive a mastectomy.
Propst agreed to its use and surgeons were able to use the MarginProbe on her tumor while she was still on the operating table.
They were able to catch the reaming cancerous tissue early and remove it.
Propst said without this surgery, she believes she would have had to have a second surgery which would have delayed her recovery and delayed radiation treatment. she can get started on her road to recovery.
“Getting [a] breast cancer diagnosis is hard enough, but if you have to go back in for a second surgery, it really impacts you.”
To learn more about the MarginProbe, you can click here.