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Headshots of Upstate breast cancer surgeons Ranjna Sharma and Lisa Lai.

Upstate breast surgeons using wire-free technology to locate tumors and lesions that will improve patient experience

Breast cancer surgeons at Upstate University Hospital have started using a new technology that will make locating and removing tumors and lesions easier and more precise.

The technology is called Savi Scout and Upstate is using it to replace, in most cases, the existing wire localization technology that many women need before the removal of a lesion or tumor. The new technology involves inserting a tiny sensor called a reflector into a non-palpable lesion – a type of tumor or abnormality in the breast that can’t be felt from the outside. The reflector is about the size of a grain of rice and uses safe, non-radioactive radar waves to signal where it is located.

The new reflector technology offers surgeons and patients two big advantages: the reflector can be inserted many days prior to surgery and it does not involve cumbersome wires protruding from the body – wires that can be uncomfortable and are at risk for moving.

“For many patients the reflector is more comfortable, less anxiety-provoking and also saves time on the day of surgery,” said Ranjna Sharma, MD, FACS, chief, section of breast surgery at Upstate. “We felt these were important benefits to offer to our patients.”

The typical wire localizers need to be inserted just prior to a woman’s surgery in the radiology department, which is separate from where the surgery occurs. That procedure adds additional time – usually about an hour for the procedure as well as travel time between departments – beforehand. Wire localization involves having several inches of wire protruding from the breast, which the surgeon follows to locate the tumor. The wires can be uncomfortable and can sometimes move, which can make finding the tumor in surgery more challenging at times, Sharma said.

The reflector is inserted using a long, thin, metal device similar to biopsy equipment and it cannot be felt once inside the breast. It also should not move, Sharma said. Since the new Savi Scout reflector can be inserted any time before the surgery, doctors can schedule and begin surgery earlier in the day, which can be helpful to both the patient and the physician, she said.

The breast surgeon will use a probe on the surface of the skin to detect where the reflector is and guide the incision. The new technology may also give the surgeon more options when deciding where to make the incision when performing the lumpectomy, which could help the cosmetic success of the procedure, Sharma said.

The Savi Scout can be detected up to six centimeters deep, which means for some patients with deeper tissue or tumors, the wire localization technique will still be necessary. The goal is to remove the reflector with the tumor or lesion; it can be used with cancerous and non-cancerous tumors and lesions as well as lymph nodes. Two reflectors may also be used on one large tumor if necessary, Sharma said.

Upstate breast surgeon Lisa Lai, MD, said the precision of the new technology should help surgeons accurately remove cancerous tissue while also preserving healthy tissue, which is beneficial to patients.

“The goal of a lumpectomy for breast cancer is to remove the tumor with a normal rim of breast tissue around it, so the edges of the tissue are free of cancer. Research shows that use of this device improves success of the operation by increasing the chance that the tumor will be fully removed and thus decreasing the chance of needing a second operation to remove more tissue,” Lai said. “The device increases the precision of a lumpectomy by guiding the surgeon to the exact tumor location and telling the surgeon the actual distance to the tumor.”

Upstate is the only hospital in Central New York using this technology, Sharma said. All four breast surgeons at Upstate -- Sharma, Lai, Mary Ellen Greco, MD, FACS and Kristine Keeney, MD -- are using the new Savi Scout technology. Most breast tumor and lesion localization at Upstate is being done with the reflector.

“We are really excited to be able to offer this new technology to our Central New York community. We think this is a great opportunity to advance breast cancer care and improve the patient experience. We’re all really excited to be a part of this,” Sharma said. “It’s something we’ve been talking about for some time now so it’s very exciting to see it become a reality.”

Caption: Upstate breast surgeons Ranjna Sharma, MD, FACS and Lisa Lai, MD.