Needle Procedure Points the Way

When Lisa Carlton had a mammogram this spring, doctors told her they didn't like what they saw.

"(I was) scared to death," she said. "It's a very scary thought."

Besides the fear of cancer, she also thought about what just a biopsy could do to her physical appearance.

"There was a fear that they would take more than they had to," she said.

A procedure called needle wire localization can minimize those fears. A thin wire is inserted in the breast to pinpoint the area deemed suspicious by a mammogram or ultrasound.

"We know there's an area of suspicion there," said Sharon Anderson, RN, staff nurse with the Breast Diagnostic Center, "but without being able to localize that area with the procedure that we do in the Breast Diagnostic Center, the surgeon really would not be able to find it because you can't physically identify it, you can't feel it, you can't see it with the naked eye."

Without the needle, surgeons would be going in blind.

"It would be taking more tissue, healthy tissue, that you didn't have to take, possibly even missing it sometimes and having to go back and take other biopsies," said Linda Hunter, RN, charge nurse with Topeka Single Day Surgery.

The needle localization also means less time in surgery and, many times, little cosmetic recovery. Weeks after her biopsy, Lisa says you can hardly see a scar. The best news is that what doctors saw wasn't cancer.

"If it was cancer, I'd tell them to take it all," she said. "But since I did not know and there were not sure, I did not want to take it all, so it was a huge comfort to know that they were only got to take what they needed."

Early diagnosis is key in beating breast cancer. For more information, visit the American Cancer Society's Web site,

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