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Doctors Try to Make Sure Breast Surgeries are Complete

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Aired 4/19/09

Doctors at UCSD are working on a way to make sure breast surgeries really remove all of the cancer cells. KPBS Reporter Tom Fudge has more.

Advances in breast cancer surgery mean women today can have cancerous lumps removed, rather losing the whole beast. But it normally takes a full week, following surgery, before doctors know whether all the cancer cells were removed. If not, the patient needs to have surgery again. That's why San Diego doctors are working on a way to test healthy tissue, while the patient is still asleep, to make sure no cancer cells remain. Dr. Sarah Blair, of UCSD, says tissue near the edge of the lump is placed on a slide and stained with markers for breast cancer.

Blair:   We look at it under the microscope and we get an answer whether there are tumor cells or not at the edge of what we've taken out.

Blair says she hopes the test will be refined and ready to use within two years. Tom Fudge, KPBS News.

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