- Machine sucks out cancerous tissue via a special needle inserted into the breast
- The minimally invasive treatment leaves less scarring than conventional surgery
- New trial using this approach is being carried out at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust
A vacuum-powered device could be a new way to remove breast cancer.
The machine sucks out cancerous tissue via a special needle inserted into the breast, and doctors say it is suitable for small and medium breast tumours up to one inch in size.
The 60-minute, minimally invasive treatment leaves less scarring than conventional surgery, where the tumour is cut out, and does not require a general anaesthetic.
Now a new trial using this approach — known as vacuum-assisted excision — is being carried out at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.
The study is part of a growing body of research into the use of ‘vacuum’ technology in the treatment of breast cancer.
There are around 55,000 new cases a year in the UK and vacuum-assisted biopsies (VAB) are one of a number of methods used to remove a sample of tissue for detailed examination in the laboratory.
This technique is carried out under local anaesthetic as an outpatient procedure, and has been used in the NHS breast screening programme for about ten years to diagnose whether suspicious small lumps are cancerous.
The technology is also now being used in research to help pinpoint the location of breast cancer after the patient has had chemotherapy.
Normally, when a breast cancer patient has chemotherapy before surgery, they will have scans afterwards to see if the tumour has shrunk.
By using VAB alongside the scans, doctors think they can determine with greater accuracy the size of the tumour, and potentially spare patients surgery if the cancer has been eradicated.
Doctors say this approach could be beneficial for the 30 per cent of women diagnosed with breast cancer each year who have chemotherapy to try to shrink the tumour so it is easier to remove with an operation.
Currently, all these patients still undergo surgery because mammogram, ultrasound or MRI scans used to identify their response to chemotherapy are not very accurate; they can’t differentiate between remaining cancer cells and dead scar tissue, and doctors don’t want to miss any residual cancer.
With ‘vacuum’ technology, a large-gauge needle, around 4mm in diameter, is inserted under local anaesthetic into the tumour.
Once it’s in place, the vacuum-generating device is plugged into the other end of the needle to suck out the malignant tissue.
The tumour is removed with a combination of cutting with the needle and then sucking.
After the lump is removed, a small metal clip is placed where the lump was as a permanent marker that can be seen in any future breast ultrasound scans or mammograms to check for any recurrence.
If the new NHS trial on around 20 women is successful, the device could spare women with breast cancer from invasive surgery.
However, some doctors are concerned that this approach could leave cancer cells behind, which could then spread to other parts of the body.
‘Such a piecemeal removal of cancer has traditionally been an anathema of surgical oncologists, as it can potentially leave cancer cells behind and spread,’ says Jayant Vaidya, a professor of surgery and oncology at University College London.
‘However, research to improve cancer treatment is always welcome and the procedure could be of great value in those patients who cannot have standard surgery.’
Source: The Dailymail