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Richmond woman says new breast cancer technology is ‘like a miracle’

Kimberly Sanchez is no stranger to cancer. The 56-year-old Richmond woman has battled cancer six times — including three bouts with breast cancer — and knows firsthand how a new technology at Centegra Health System is making breast cancer surgery easier for patients.

Breast surgeons and radiologists at Centegra now use tiny radiofrequency localization tags to mark the exact location of breast tumors to be removed. The tags improve patient comfort before a lumpectomy surgery.

Previously, radiologists inserted wires into a woman’s breast to mark the tissue that needed to be removed. Patients had to have the wires placed several hours before surgery, which could make the wait time uncomfortable.

Sanchez had the wire-guided procedure twice and said the experience was less than ideal. She calls herself a “tough broad,” but when it came to her third breast cancer surgery, Sanchez wasn’t sure she’d have the procedure until she talked to a breast surgeon.

Radiofrequency localization tags provide better accuracy, patient comfort

The surgeon explained how the radiofrequency localization tags can be used instead of wires. The tags are the size of a grain of rice, and a breast radiologist can place the tag in the center of the lesion up to 30 days before a surgery using either ultrasound or mammogram.

Then, during surgery, the surgeon uses a small handheld probe to more accurately locate the tag, which is removed along with the tissue.

“The radiofrequency tag provides the precision we need without the drawbacks of other localization techniques,” said Vickie Chorney-Dort, Breast Program Supervisor at the Centegra Gavers Breast Center. “This new technology helps the patient and makes an already stressful situation a little bit easier for everyone involved.”

Once all of her questions were answered, Sanchez decided to go forward with this new technique.

“I went to (Centegra Gavers Breast Center) the day before surgery, and they gave me a little local anesthesia. It was a very small cut to insert it,” Sanchez said.

On the day of her surgery, she didn’t have to arrive early at Centegra Hospital-Huntley because the localization tag was already in place. The surgeon completed the procedure, and Sanchez woke up in a comfortable room surrounded by her family.

“It was like a miracle,” Sanchez said. “The next day I baby-sat my 3-year-old grandson and was pretty much back to normal. I didn’t have any pain. I had full use of my arm. It was such a huge, huge difference.”

Sanchez said her whole family has been talking about the radiofrequency localization tags nonstop because it made such a difference.

“I don’t know who invented the thing, but I’d love to give them a big hug!” Sanchez said.

For more information on the Centegra Comprehensive Breast Program, visit Centegra.org/breast.