At Baptist Memorial Health Care, a seed procedure is changing the landscape for how breast cancer patients are treated.
This new seed procedure is quite simple. The seed itself contains a small amount of radioactivity and is used differently for different types of cancer. For prostate cancer patients, these seeds are distributed in large numbers, typically 50 to 60 at a time. For breast cancer patients, the seed is used instead of a wire to help the surgeon localize the part of the breast that needs to be removed during surgery.
“The seed emits a tiny amount of radiation, which can be identified and tracked using a handheld gamma probe – like a Geiger counter,” said Dr. Alyssa Throckmorton, a Baptist surgeon specializing in oncology and breast cancer. “This localization technique can be used not only for small cancers, but also small benign masses, micro-calcifications, or even axillary lymph nodes that require removal.”
Most patients tolerate the placement of this seed very well; in fact, there is often less pain than would be experienced with a needle biopsy or wire localization. Additionally, the seed can be placed up to five days before surgery occurs.
“This is more convenient for many patients compared to a wire localization, which must be done on the day of the surgery,” said Dr. Throckmorton. “The radiation exposure, if the seed is placed five days before surgery, is the equivalent of a mammogram. Most patients have their seed placed less than five days in advance so for most, the radiation exposure is even less.”
Baptist is only one of two radioactive seed localization programs in the state of Tennessee and the only one in the Mid-South, including Mississippi and Arkansas.