Doc Talk: A new tool and a new technique for battle breast cancer

Dr. Daniel Barnas, a surgeon at Borgess Medical Center, talks about new techniques for breast cancer surgery. (WWMT/Courtesy of Borgess Health)

Borgess Medical Center is the only hospital in our region offering two techniques that aim to provide better treatment and results for patients battling breast cancer.

The first is a procedure called hidden scar surgery.

Because most people who battle breast cancer are left with a scar after surgery, this approach looks to change that.

Dr. Daniel Barnas has performed 150 to 200 hidden scar surgeries in the past three years at Borgess.

“If we can hide that scar, it gives them a little more emotional well-being, where they don’t have to be reminded of it every day," Barnas said.

The technique allows Barnas to remove the tumor through an incision in the armpit or under the breast. Because of the location, the scar is less visible.

“We can still get out the tissue that we need to remove and get a good cosmetic outcome for them,” Barnas said.

When the patient undergoes a lumpectomy, Barnas checks the tumor with a tool known as a MarginProbe. Once the tumor and some additional tissue, known as the margin, is removed, Barnas said, the MarginProbe is then used to double check the tissue to ensure the margin is clear of any cancer.

“It’ll tell us: ‘Is this abnormal tissue? Is this normal tissue?’ And when you’re dealing with breast tissue, a quarter of a millimeter, a half a millimeter, makes a huge difference," Barnas said.

The national average for re-excision surgery after a lumpectomy is 22 percent, Barnas said. When this tool is used, he said, that percentage drops well below the national average.

If the MarginProbe detects something abnormal, Barnas said, doctors are able to go back in and remove it right away.

“So, now you’re going from 1 in 5 women to 1 in 10 women have to go back and have additional tissue taken," Barnas said, "and I think that’s going to continue to get better as the device even gets better and we get more approval for uses of it.”

Currently, the MarginProbe is not approved to test any additional tissue that might be taken during surgery. However, Barnas is pushing for that to change. Once there is approval, he believes doctors will be able to catch even more cancerous cells, making that re-excision rate even lower.

Right now, the MarginProbe is approved only for lumpectomies.

If anyone would like to meet and talk with Dr. Barnas, Borgess is hosting a free community seminar at 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, at the Borgess Health and Fitness Center on Gull Road at Nazareth. Call 269-226-8135 for more information and to register. The seminar is free but space is limited, so reservations are suggested.

Community Seminar on Breast Cancer

  • Who: With Dr. Daniel Barnas
  • When: April 24, at 4 p.m.
  • Where: Borgess Health and Fitness Center (Gull Road at Nazareth) in Kalamazoo
  • Admission: Free, but space is limited
  • Register: 269-226-8135

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