Marking Lymph Nodes | Hackensack Meridian Health   

Hackensack University Medical Center Breast Surgeons Demonstrate New Technology for Marking Location of Cancerous Lymph Nodes

Tool Shown Accurate and Effective in Making Procedure More Comfortable for Patients

Breast surgeons at Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center have a new tool that allows them to pinpoint breast tumors more easily, with many benefits to the patient.

The reflector device has proven useful as an alternative to wire localization for locating breast tumors before lumpectomy. Hackensack University Medical Center breast surgeons were early adopters of this system, and they began to explore its use for pinpointing the location of cancerous lymph nodes before starting pre-surgical chemotherapy. The FDA approved the use of the reflector device in axillary lymph nodes in August 2018.

The system uses an innovative reflector device which is placed in the cancerous axillary lymph nodes of the patient, two or more months before breast cancer surgery, to mark the location of these lymph nodes in women having pre-surgical chemotherapy.

In a recent study, Hackensack physicians found it accurately identified which axillary lymph nodes, which often shrink greatly during preoperative chemotherapy, needed to be removed for analysis at the time of breast cancer surgery. The study was published in the June 23, 2021 issue of the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

Traditionally, a radiologist implants a wire to mark the site of a cancerous lymph node during a procedure performed the same day as breast cancer surgery. The wire is uncomfortable, and its implantation subjects the patient to an additional procedure right before the operation, causing even more anxiety.

In the operating room, the surgeon holds a probe over the area and a beeping sound indicates where the reflector device is.

In their study, 42 women with breast cancer had wire localization of their cancerous axillary lymph nodes and 57 others had localization with the new device. Successful identification of the cancerous lymph nodes at the time of surgery was equivalent between the two groups.

Moreover, because the reflector does not contain radiation (unlike radioactive seed placement, another pre-surgical lymph node localization tool), the technique is safe for long-term placement. Being able to accurately identify the lymph nodes during surgery also means that fewer lymph nodes need to be removed for analysis—reducing the risk of lymphedema.

Learn More about cancer treatment innovations at Hackensack University Medical Center.
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