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Devices could halt extra cancer ops

15 August 2014 07:57

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK

Cutting-edge medical technology is being tested which experts say could stop healthy tissue being removed when operating on breast cancer patients.

A clinical trial is under way to determine whether new imaging tools are able to scan tumours while an operation is ongoing as opposed to after it has taken place.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK - about 48,000 women and a few hundred men are diagnosed with the disease every year.

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Tests on the imaging devices being trialled will help researchers discover whether surgeons could remove breast tumours and cancerous lymph nodes without having to cut out healthy tissue.

Currently, once a tumour has been removed from a breast, tests are carried out on it. More surgery is required on the patient if any cancer cells are found close to the tumour's surface. Around a quarter of patients currently need to go back for a second operation.

The test, at the moment, can take up to a week after the first operation.

The two devices being tested inject patients with a small quantity of radioactive substance that mark the tumour cells. Following the removal of the tumour, it is placed in a fixed scanner, which can scan the tumour's surface for cancer cells in a matter of minutes. This can be done during the course of the first operation.

Additionally, tests are being planned for a device that can scan the inside of the breast. Surgeons will use the fibre optic camera to check, once a tumour has been taken out, that none of the remaining breast tissue is tagged with the radioactive marker.

Professor Arnie Purushotham, lead author on the research, says the devices could be a "major development in cancer surgery".