News Releases

News Release - Manitoba

May 8, 2024

Manitoba Leads Breast Cancer Care with Innovative Technology

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Technology Allows for More Surgeries Outside of Winnipeg, More Access to Nuclear Medicine: Asagwara

Manitoba will begin using an innovative technology called magnetic seed localization to improve the care and comfort of most people who are having surgery to treat breast cancer, making it the first province to use the technology provincewide, Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced today.

“Going through cancer treatment is never easy, physically or mentally, but our government is enabling cutting-edge technology to make care more comfortable and less invasive,” said Asagwara. “We’re the first jurisdiction to use this technology provincewide, which allows care providers to pinpoint cancer tissue in a less intrusive way ahead of surgery. It’s better for the patient and is a more flexible process that also has benefits for the health-care system as a whole.”

Like other provinces, Manitoba previously used metal wires inserted into a patient’s breast to identify the location of early breast cancer during surgery. The wire extended out of the breast and would be inserted the evening before or day of surgery. Along with the wire placement, which could be uncomfortable, most patients would also receive a painful injection of a radioactive tracer used to mark lymph nodes that may be biopsied to check on the spread of the cancer.

The province has invested $2.1 million this year to develop a program that uses small metal seeds to locate cancer tissue more accurately during surgery. The seeds are about the size of a grain of rice and, once magnetized, allow surgeons to easily find them. This process cuts down on discomfort and because the seeds can be implanted weeks ahead of surgery, allow more breast cancer surgeries to occur outside Winnipeg. Manitoba has also expanded care for rural patients by using a non-radioactive tracer that can be given in the operating room, which enables more surgeries outside of Winnipeg, the minister added.

This investment is also expected to open 400 nuclear medicine appointments per year that are normally reserved for breast cancer surgery patients, the minister said, adding this technology will improve scheduling efficiencies for radiology and allow for improved utilization of operating room schedules.

“The investment in magnetic seed localization will greatly enhance patient experience for individuals with breast cancer, with surgeons using the latest technology to provide care to those who need it,” said Tania D’Amato, executive director of provincial breast health operations, Shared Health. “It will also significantly improve the patient journey in a variety of ways including reduced pain and discomfort, the elimination of exposure to nuclear medicine and its various side effects in most cases, and increased access to surgical care outside of Winnipeg.”

“We are delighted to have this technology available for Manitobans and it’s a great asset to breast cancer surgeons across the province too,” said Dr. Pamela Hebbard, breast cancer surgeon and head of surgical oncology, CancerCare Manitoba. “It’s a better patient experience, helps to assist care close to home and even provides for efficiencies in our operating room schedules.”

Approximately 900 Manitobans are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. News of the move to magnetic seed localization was welcomed by Gail Styck, who had metal wires inserted into her breast prior to a lumpectomy performed in December 2023.

“Everything about those wires is incredibly painful. After my last lumpectomy, I told my husband the pain was so bad that I would never let them put a wire in me again,” said Styck. “I think it’s a wonderful thing that Manitoba is moving on from using those wires because it means other patients won’t have to deal with that pain anymore.”

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