A breast cancer diagnosis can be devastating, but new technology and treatment options are helping to make the process more bearable. And for patients in Delaware, a revolutionary diagnostic tool is now available to help improve outcomes and the standard of care.
Dr. M. Lisa Attebery, FACOS, a fellowship-trained, board-certified breast surgical oncologist at Bayhealth Hospital’s Sussex Campus in Milford, says Bayhealth now offers technology designed to locate and remove cancerous tissue using a less invasive, more patient-friendly treatment method that also reduces the need for repeat surgeries.
Attebery and Bayhealth have partnered with a company called Endomag to introduce the Sentimag system, which enables doctors to identify cancerous tissue without using an invasive guidewire placed into the patient’s breast during surgery—the standard of care for more than 30 years.
One in five women with breast cancer who undergoes surgery must go back under the knife because their cancer wasn’t completely removed, according to various clinical studies. This is because the traditional method of marking tumors for surgery is to insert a long guidewire into the site of the cancer. This wire can sometimes move before surgery, which means that surgeons risk missing cancerous tissue.
Attebery is one of the nation’s first surgeons—and the only breast cancer surgeon in the First State—to pioneer this new option. The Sentimag system uses a tiny magnet called a Magseed marker, smaller than a grain of rice, which can be placed to mark a tumor weeks or months ahead of its removal. The magnetic seed is designed not to move, thus reducing the need to return for future surgery.
Another option is the use of an injectable liquid called Magtrace in the operating room prior to surgery, which avoids the use of radioactive material and blue dye traditionally used as a tracer. The Sentimag probe works like a metal detector that can spot the Magseed or Magtrace when placed near the skin’s surface. This technology can help pinpoint the tumor stage or cancer spread and can be particularly beneficial in guiding a patient’s treatment plan.
“The tracer is designed to follow the route cancer cells are most likely to take when they spread through the lymphatic system,” Attebery explains. “This enables me to precisely pinpoint cancerous nodes and perform a more targeted dissection while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible. It also gives patients a more flexible and comfortable experience without radiation exposure. This is a transformational approach to treating breast cancer, and really should be the standard of care going forward.”
Attebery, who also operates out of a surgical center in Dover and is head of the Comprehensive Breast & Surgical Center in Rehoboth Beach, knew at a young age that she wanted to become a physician. She often accompanied her mother, a pediatric nurse, to work and loved watching her and the doctor help patients get well. During medical school, she was fascinated by her general surgery rotation and decided to go into breast surgical oncology because of the connections she is able to build with her patients and the intellectual challenge that comes with treating cancer.
“It’s a privilege to work with patients throughout their entire treatment process,” she says. “I meet people at the worst time, but then I get to see them through the whole process, meet their family members, educate them and help them feel safe, comfortable and confident. …I’m hoping we can change a lot of practices for the better with this technology and am proud to be the first surgeon in Delaware to offer this treatment to patients in our community.”