Surgical ‘map’ that makes breast cancer surgery faster and less riskier

Surgical ‘map’ that makes breast cancer surgery faster and less riskier

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Singaporean doctor develops a surgical ‘map’ to reduce risk to breast cancer surgery.

Apart from increasing the efficiency of an early stage breast cancer surgery, a surgical map developed by Dr Ong Kong Wee, head of SingHealth Duke-NUS Breast Centre, can lessen the risks involved and time taken. By identifying and mapping the positions of sentinel lymph nodes in the armpits, structures usually removed in the procedure to avoid spread of cancer, the risk of accidental severance of nerves can be reduced greatly.

Dr Ong Kong Wee map breast cancer surgery

If doctors do not know where to locate the nodes, they might make more incisions than necessary, which could increase the risk of cutting surrounding blood vessels, causing numbness in patients’ arms.

With the help of the map, doctors can utilize more cost-effective methods of breast cancer surgery, which are otherwise quite training intensive.

At present there are two main methods used to locate sentinel lymph nodes.
One method uses a radioactive tools with blue dye that ensures the location to be 95 per cent accurate. However, the cost ranges from $474.22-632.30 for patients and requires special facilities. 

The second method involves injecting the blue dye into breast tissue and allowing it to travel to lymph nodes, costing about only $20. The lymph nodes can be identified dyed blue post incision and removed.

Dr Wee’s map can be applied better to the second method, which will also benefit patients physically and financially. Currently, only 50 percent of surgeons actually use the second (cheaper) method.

Photo Credits: The Strait Times