The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved a new test which can detect whether breast cancer has spread.
Used during surgery, it could help reduce the need for further operations, while meaning chemotherapy treatment could begin earlier.
At present patients who receive breast cancer operations from qualified surgeons to remove the main tumours, also have lymph nodes in their armpits removed during the same procedure.
Following this a biopsy is carried out on the nodes to determine whether cancer cells have spread.
However, this can be a slow process, with patients having to wait up to 15 working days to receive their results. Should they come back positive then a second operation to remove the remaining lymph nodes would then need to be scheduled.
But thanks to this approval the 11,000 people with breast cancer who annually require this additional operation to prevent the spread of the disease could be reduced. This would help to ensure patients could be treated quicker, with shorter waiting times and a better chance of stemming the spread of cancer earlier.
The RD-100i OSNA system test is now approved to be used during breast cancer surgery. It detects the presence of biological markers suggesting that the cancer has spread in a biopsy of the lymph node and means that they can be removed at the same time as the initial tumour if necessary.
Professor Carole Longson, director of the NICE Health Technology Evaluation Centre said that this test could have a big impact on people with breast cancer and their families, as waiting for the results can cause significant distress and anxiety.
She explained: "The committee heard from a patient expert that the option of not having to have a second operation was an important consideration for patients."
"The committee therefore concluded that analysis of sentinel lymph nodes using the RD-100i OSNA system during operations had considerable advantages over traditional histopathology testing and had the potential to reduce both clinical complications, and patient anxiety and distress," Professor Longson added.
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