Alice Police, MD, FACS
Q. What do you use MarginProbe technology for, and how does it differ from traditional methods to target breast cancer cells?
A. Since most cases of breast cancer are diagnosed early in the United States, most tumors are small. Probably 65% of women opt for breast conserving surgery—lumpectomy—and that’s why it’s extremely important to have clear, or clean, margins. This means that there’s only healthy tissue surrounding the cancerous tissue removed from the breast. Our goal? To make sure we’ve removed all cancerous tissue. MarginProbe technology helps us fulfill this goal. This technology allows breast surgeons to more precisely differentiate between cancer cells and clean margins during surgery.
Q. Why is it important to decrease re-excision rates?
A. As a surgeon, and as director of the Northwell Health Breast Care Centers in Westchester County, my goal is to only operate once. In a typical year, I do 150 to 200 surgeries. Of those, about half are lumpectomies. Since I’ve begun using MarginProbe, it has dramatically decreased the chances of my breast cancer patients needing a second surgery: My personal re-excision rate has been really low, under 3%.
However, the national re-excision rate is higher, about 25-40%, meaning a second surgery is required in about one third of cases. It’s critical that we lower these numbers. Beyond the physical impacts of surgery and recovery, patients experience powerful emotional and psychological trauma when their doctor tells them they need to prepare for a second surgery. Even though it doesn’t affect their overall survival rate, they feel devastated and think, “It’s bad news. They didn’t get it all.” It has a huge impact on them.
Q. How does MarginProbe technology work?
A. We want healthy tissue all the way around the cancer, like the olive flesh around a pimento or pit. The MarginProbe is a wand that’s 8 mm (1/3 inch) wide, and we use it to touch the surface of the tumor to take multiple readings. It sends electrical impulses into and out of the cells. During surgery, this technology helps us identify cancer cells hiding in that olive flesh, or margin, of healthy tissue. We’re able to remove it right then and there in the operating room without waiting for pathology reports to be analyzed at a lab.
Q. Are mammograms important?
A. Mammograms are the number 1 tool we have to detect breast cancer. All women of normal risk should have one annually, starting at age 40. Go to a nationally accredited breast center with a certification from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. It’s also important for women to know whether they are high or low risk, and to find out their risk level, they need to have an examination at a certified breast center. At Northern Westchester Hospital, we see women for all of their breast care needs, including routing exams, abnormal mammograms, lumps, pain, nipple discharge, or a family history of breast cancer. Northern Westchester Hospital’s Breast Care Center provides care for patients who are undergoing aesthetic, reconstructive & breast surgical procedures.
Q. Are you working on other innovative technologies?
A. Yes, I am currently working with Dune Medical Devices to test a new Smart Biopsy Device that could diagnose breast cancer using miniature radiofrequency sensors. Rather than waiting for the results of a biopsy to be analyzed, miniaturized sensors are mounted on the tip of a biopsy needle to provide surgeons with the physical properties of tissue—continuously and immediately—during a surgical procedure. Physicians can see the type of tissue they are about to sample on a screen display, and verify they are taking out the right tissue sample by detecting morphology changes that are present in cancer cells.
Learn More About Dr. Police
Regional Director of Breast Surgery, Northwell Health
Northern Westchester Hospital
Northern Westchester Hospital is a proud member of Northwell Health.
Read Past Topics from Dr. Police
A Targeted Breast-Conserving Option for Women