Progress in ultrasound-guided surgery may improve breast cancer treatment

When surgeons operate to remove a tumour, determining exactly where to cut can be tricky. Ideally, the entire tumour should be removed while leaving a continuous layer of healthy tissue, but current techniques for locating the tumours during surgery are imprecise. Now a multidisciplinary team from the University of California, San Diego, is developing an alternate means of precisely tagging breast cancer tumours for removal or targeted destruction.

Breast cancer is the most common female cancer in the U.S., and the main cause of death in women ages 40-59, according to UptoDate, an information service for clinical physicians. Over a lifetime, 1 in 8 women in the U.S. is expected to develop breast cancer. Despite great strides in survival, there is trauma associated not only with the disease, but also with its treatment. Many women want to avoid a full mastectomy, but conventional breast-conserving approaches, such as lumpectomy, can be arduous. Up to 25 % of lumpectomies require a second surgery to excise the entire tumour.

The UCSD team is working on a better method for tagging tumours that should reduce the need for follow-up surgeries. The researchers developed iron-doped