Breast cancer patients have new surgery option with radioactive seed


UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center now offers a new technique for breast cancer patients undergoing surgery to remove breast cancer that may improve cosmetic outcomes and the patient’s surgery experience.

Candice Sauder
Candice Sauder

This procedure uses a tiny radioactive capsule to mark the location of the breast tumor or lesion before surgery, allowing for its retrieval in the operating room. UC Davis is the second center in California to offer this technique.

Traditionally, surgeons performing breast conserving surgery use a wire placed by a radiologist on the morning of surgery to mark the location of the lesion. With radioactive seed localization, radiologists can implant a seed a day or two before surgery instead of placing a wire. The seed gives the surgeon more incision options so that smaller specimens can be removed from the breast.

“This procedure can give our patients better cosmetic outcomes while still having a precise cancer surgery,” said Candice Sauder, breast surgical oncologist at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. The smaller incision and smaller amount of breast tissue removed may lead to a smaller scar for the patient.

Sauder, who joined UC Davis in 2016, is the Cancer Center’s first dedicated breast cancer surgeon. Since joining the faculty she has worked with the UC Davis Department of Radiology to launch the radioactive seed program.

“It’s a very safe procedure,” said UC Davis radiologist Jonathan Hargreaves. “And having the localization done earlier in the week and returning for surgery first thing in the morning provides a better patient experience.”

Seed localization uses a very small amount of radiation to help the surgeon locate the lesion, which may be too small to be seen or felt. The seed is then removed along with the abnormal tissue during surgery.

Patients can maintain their regular activities while the seed is in place. Since the seed has such a low level of radiation, and is in the patient for such a short period of time, there is essentially no risk from the radioactive seed to the patient or people the patient encounters, Hargreaves said.

“The collaboration of the surgeons, radiologist and nuclear medicine specialists at UC Davis enhances outcomes for our patients,” said Sauder. “I am excited to be part of a team that constantly strives to improve the patient experience.”

UC Davis Health System