UCI Health working to improve precision in breast cancer surgery

System uses non-radioactive, electromagnetic technology to locate tumors

June 04, 2015

UCI Health breast cancer surgeon Dr. Alice Police recently performed Orange County’s first lumpectomy using a new process to improve tumor location. UC Irvine Medical Center is the only hospital in Orange County to participate in a national, multicenter clinical trial of the system, which is designed to make breast-conserving lumpectomies more precise.

“My focus is always on finding a better breast cancer operation,” Police said. “Precise location of the tumor is crucial for a shorter operation time, smaller incision, speedier recovery, and to avoid another surgery.”

Unlike a mastectomy, where all breast tissue is removed, the goal of the breast-conserving lumpectomy is to remove all detectable cancer cells while sparing as much healthy tissue as possible. The surgeon’s challenge is knowing exactly where the cancerous tissue is and how much to take. This makes the lumpectomy a two-step procedure: Insertion, usually by a radiologist guided by mammogram or ultrasound, of wires that loop around the tumor and pinpoint its location, and surgical excision.  During surgery, the wires serve as arrows, pointing the way to the tumor. This has been the standard approach for more than 20 years, Police said.

The SAVI Scout system helps doctors more accurately locate the tumor in order to increase the rates of complete cancer removal, preserve healthy tissue and decrease the number of repeat surgeries. Of the estimated 174,000 women who have breast conservation surgery every year, about 30 percent will require repeat procedure because cancer cells are not completely removed during the initial surgery.

SAVI Scout  system is FDA-cleared and uses a probe that emits non-radioactive, electromagnetic waves to detect a micro reflector placed in the target tissue.  The reflector can be inserted into the target tissue up to a week before surgery. Using the probe, which sends audio and visual signals, the surgeon locates the reflector and plans the incision. 

Once the incision is made, the probe can be used with retractors to provide guidance to the target tissue in real time, eliminating the need to interrupt the procedure for an intraoperative ultrasound. The excised tissue is scanned with the probe to confirm the sensor has been removed.

UCI Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 411-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 14 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and is the primary teaching hospital for UC Irvine School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the University of California, Irvine: Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.8 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.