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Virginia Hospital Center

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Getting It Right the First Time

One of the biggest fears breast-cancer patients have is that a lumpectomy might miss some cancerous tissue. According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, one in four women in the United States has to undergo more surgery after a lumpectomy.

But at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, a new handheld tool called the MarginProbe is alleviating some of those concerns. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012, the MarginProbe is currently used by only five hospitals in the country, including VHC.

Here's how it works: Immediately following a lumpectomy, the surgeon guides the MarginProbe over the edges of the just-removed tumor, testing the tissue for signs of cancer. If it finds any, the probe emits a red light.

"Right then and there, you can take out more tissue because the patient is still in the operating room," VHC breast surgeon Stephanie Akbari says. "Any tool we can use to reduce the number of surgeries that patients need and not compromise cancer care is a good thing."

Since introducing the device in May, VHC has cut its rate of lumpectomy reoperation in half, from 10 percent to 5 percent.

Says Akbari: "The MarginProbe is a tool that helps cut down the number of times where we don't find out until it's too late."

Read all of the 'Saving Lives with Science' pieces about our 2013-2014 Top Hospitals.

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Posted at 3:53 PM/ET, 04/01/2014
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