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New technique may improve breast cancer detection and surgery options
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A surgeon at the Johns Hopkins Breast Center said he has developed a new procedure that can detect breast cancers with greater certainty than routine diagnostic testing and help patients avoid radical surgery in some cases.
The detection method uses a small endoscope, less than 1 millimeter in diameter, that allows surgeons to magnify breast tissue up to 60 times the normal size and pinpoint small lesions.
Dr. William Dooley, director of the Johns Hopkins Breast Center and the scope's developer, calls the procedure a "breast pap smear" and says it helps limit the extent of surgery for women newly diagnosed with the disease.
"Because we can see the tumor so clearly through the endoscope, we can easily find the margins of the tumor and thus are able to conserve more breast tissue," he said. "Patients that in the past would have received mastectomies, which involves removing the entire breast and lymph nodes under the arm, are now candidates for lumpectomy."
The endoscope is inserted through the nipple into the ducts that line the breast. Through the scope, the doctor is then able to examine the breast tissue and identify lesions.
According to Dooley, 80 per cent of all breast cancers start in the ducts. Any woman with breast cancer, pre-cancerous cells or who is undergoing a lumpectomy is a good candidate for the procedure, but Dooley cautions that the technique is still best used with standard diagnostic tests.
A total of 140 women participated in the clinical trial at Hopkins with a reported 75 percent success rate.
Results of the research were published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association. Dooley said he is now training other doctors to use the scope. And he soon hopes to use the endoscope to perform biopsies on breast tissue.
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American Cancer Society - Breast Cancer Resource Center
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