When you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, the first thing your doctor wants to know is if it has spread to your lymph nodes – if so, you’ll need more aggressive treatment. There are two ways of finding cancer in the lymph nodes: a blue dye and and/or a radioactive compound. The blue dye can cause health problems, and the radioactive compound can only be used in a major cancer centre: patients often have to travel a long way, and spend more time in hospital.
Breast Cancer Foundation NZ is funding a pilot – a joint venture between surgeons at Nelson and Auckland Hospitals – of an easier way to find cancer in the lymph nodes using a simple magnetic tracer. If the pilot’s successful, we hope surgeons around New Zealand will adopt this new, safe and cost-effective method of checking for cancer in the lymph nodes.