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New technology to help spot and treat breast cancer

View profile for Tom Mooney
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Improvements to the fitness to practice process aim to reduce stress for doctors going through investigations

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK with approximately one in eight women being diagnosed with it during their lifetime.

Thankfully there is a good chance of recovery if it's detected early and medics are therefore always on the lookout for innovative treatments to speed up diagnosis. It is hoped that an exciting new gadget – recommended by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) - could provide such assistance.

The new technology works in a similar way to a metal detector.

The patient is given an injection of a brown-coloured Magtrace liquid containing magnetic iron oxide. Once injected, these particles are absorbed into the lymphatic system, following the route that cancer cells are most likely to take when they spread from a tumour and become trapped in lymph nodes, often in the armpit.

A Sentimag probe detects magnetised liquid, tracking the fluid's journey - bleeping as it moves over the skin - to show where cancer may have spread. A surgeon is then able to sample or biopsy the area to check if cancer is present.

Jeanette Kusel, acting director for MedTech and digital at NICE, comments: "People with breast cancer want to know if their cancer has been isolated or has spread to the rest of their body. The earlier this is established, the better the potential outcomes will be.

It is hoped that adoption of this technology could help the NHS reduce its reliance on imported radioactive isotopes and enable any hospital to offer it, not just those with nuclear medicine facilities to use isotopes. This author also hopes that millions of women across the country will avoid delays in diagnosis and enjoy improved survival rates from this terrible disease.

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