Dr Willey and her team had been using the Magtrace® lymphatic tracer for standard sentinel lymph node biopsy procedures at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute, when she became aware of a new technique that could avoid underarm surgery altogether for some patients undergoing a mastectomy.
She explained how in this relatively new ‘delayed’ sentinel lymph node biopsy procedure, the patient is injected with Magtrace® at the time of surgery to remove high-risk breast tissue.
Once the tissue has been removed, they are then able to send the specimen to the pathology team, who will analyze whether the tissue shows invasive components before deciding if the patient needs their lymph nodes removed.
Results from a 2019 European study named SentiNOT showed that up to 80% of patients undergoing high-risk DCIS surgery did not require further underarm treatment. So far, Dr Willey’s results have surpassed even that number.
“We have learned from our first 40 patients, that we could save lymph nodes in 37 of the patients - so only 3 had to return for a biopsy following their final diagnosis”
She explained how one of the main benefits of offering this new surgical approach at Inova is that it reduces the potential long term side-effects associated with any form of surgery, including conditions such as lymphedema.
Axillary lymphedema occurs when the lymphatic system is disrupted, leading to a buildup of lymphatic fluid in the underarm. This buildup can cause chronic pain, swelling and discomfort which have long term effects on the patients life and it can be a lifelong condition.
“This [procedure] allows us to save lymph nodes in a woman’s body and allows them to retain their normal function”
With more and more patients diagnosed with high-risk DCIS every year, Dr Willey explained why early detection has become more important than ever before – and why it’s key to helping patients receive a better treatment experience.
“It allows us to find cancer at the very earliest stage. With DCIS, the cancer cells have developed in the duct, but they don’t have the potential to go anywhere else, and obviously that’s going to be more successfully treated than if it’s spread to other parts of the body,” explained Dr Willey.
“Through diagnosing early we can improve survival and patients can be offered less aggressive treatments”
Please note that ‘delayed’ sentinel lymph node biopsy with Magtrace® is currently only indicated for US high-risk DCIS patients undergoing a mastectomy.