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Small but mighty breast cancer technology on the way to Manitoba

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It’s about the size of a grain of uncooked rice, but a small but mighty technology will now help Manitobans battling breast cancer in the days and weeks leading up to their surgeries.

The technology, called magnetic seed localization, works as a marker. It is inserted before surgery into breast tissue to pinpoint the location of cancerous tumours.

“The idea is that it will become much more efficient for surgeons in the OR,” Tania D’Amato, executive director of provincial breast operations for Shared Health, said in an interview on CTV Morning Live Winnipeg.

Before magnetic seed localization, a wire was used, which can be uncomfortable to the patient, as the wire pokes out and is taped in place.

“Patients are worried it could dislodge sometimes, if they’re sleeping if it’s done before or if you’re driving with a seatbelt on, whereas the seed allows them to walk around unencumbered,” D’Amato said.

Tania D’Amato, executive director of provincial breast operations for Shared Health, is pictured during an interview on CTV Morning Live Winnipeg on May 28, 2024. (CTV News Winnipeg)

During the procedure, the surgeon will inject Magtrace – a non-radioactive fluid that magnetizes the seed. The doctor will then use a probe, which directs the surgeon to where the seed and the tumour is.

Manitoba is now the first in Canada to fully implement the technology across the province.

“If you don’t live in Winnipeg or don’t live close to a site that does diagnostic implementation of the seed or the wire, you can have that done weeks before surgery, and then go to your surgical appointment,” D’Amato said.

The equipment is on its way to Manitoba, and health-care workers will be trained over the summer months on how to use it, with a goal of implementing the technology by the fall.

Scheduling for breast cancer surgery will also improve with these changes, making it easier for last-minute changes and schedules to adapt if needed.

“For instance, I may have an opening on Monday morning, but we may not be able to use it because we can’t get all the other appointments lined up in time,” said Dr. Pamela Hebbard, CancerCare Manitoba’s head of surgical oncology in a news release.

“Using the same operating room days to inject the Magtrace allows us to be more efficient.”

- With files from CTV’s Rachel Lagacé

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