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June 8, 2015 | by The Polyclinic

A recent study by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published in The Seattle Times highlighted the success in reduced positive margin rates in breast cancer surgery.The Polyclinic Breast Surgery program is proud to share we have similar margin rates in breast cancer surgery to those highlighted in the NEJM study.

The published study tested cavity shaving - routinely removing an extra thin slice all around the margins of a tumor as a way to lower risk of positive margin. Positive margin is an area at the edge of the tumor that looks healthy but turns out to harbor cancer when studied later. Patients with positive margins following surgery require a second trip to the operating room adding cost, anxiety, inconvenience, and possible additional risk for a patient already dealing with a stressful cancer diagnosis. There is a world- wide focus on lowering positive margin rates for this reason.

While the NEJM study involved testing cavity shavings, The Polyclinic Breast Surgery uses radioactive seed localization (RSL) to lower positive margin rates. This technique was popularized at the Mayo clinic over the last ten years and improves precision of targeting tissue that needs to be removed.

The Breast Surgery's team of physicians and staff implemented RSL for the removal of non-palpable breast cancers in June of 2014, and has reviewed our data for the first year of using this procedure.

Out of 61 women with diagnosis of invasive breast carcinoma or DCIS who underwent lumpectomy,12 had positive margins, for a positive margin rate of 19.7 percent. This is better than reported national rates and is comparable to the rates reported in the recent NEJM study. We are relentlessly working towards lowering our rates further.

Nationally, positive margin rates range from 20-40 percent. In the reported trial in the NEJM Yale doctors were able to document a reduced positive margin rate from 34 to 19 percent using a cavity shaving technique.

Our breast surgery program has achieved low rates of positive margins after initial lumpectomies which are comparable to rates noted in an outstanding new NEJM study. This means fewer women require repeat surgeries to remove cancerous tissue.

Congratulations to The Polyclinic Breast Surgery team for, these excellent results and working to help patients get better faster.