Publish date: 31 July 2023

Breast cancer patients in West Yorkshire will benefit after two hospital Trusts were successful in achieving ongoing funding for Magseed technology - an innovation that helps a surgeon locate a tumour and increases the probability of removing it completely.

The initiative is a painless alternative to a traditional process of placing a wire in the tumour to guide the surgeon to the lesion during the operation.

Not only does it reduce patients’ time in hospital, it also lessens the number of procedures they have to undergo.

The technology began at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Airedale General Hospital NHS Trust in 2022 after they were successful beneficiaries of the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance’s Innovation Bursary funding programme.

The Innovation Bursary awards funding to initiatives that promote earlier cancer diagnosis and better care.

The West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance has since worked with both Trusts on a successful joint bid for Magseed technology to be funded on an ongoing ‘business as usual’ basis, ensuring that more patients will benefit.

Mark Dean, Innovation Project Manager for the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance, said: “We worked closely with both Airedale and Bradford Trusts when we awarded funding to them in the first of the Cancer Alliance’s innovation competition in 2021/22.

“They decided to bid for ongoing funding, and we were able to bring them together to submit a joint proposal for ‘business as usual’ funding which was successful.

“This is great news and will bring huge benefits to breast cancer patients in our region.”

'Smaller than a grain of rice'

Due to imaging and screening advancements, breast cancer is often caught at earlier stages. However, early detection means that cancers are typically smaller and therefore harder to locate during surgery. Studies have shown that about 50% of all lesions are ‘non-palpable’, which means surgeons cannot find them by touch alone.

Magseed is a magnetic, unbreakable seed, used to ‘mark’ the location of the lump for removal in surgery. It is extremely small, smaller than a single grain of rice and for that reason, it cannot be felt when placed in the breast before surgery and is completely painless. It is placed inside the lump and helps to guide the surgeon to the exact location of the cancer.

Catherine Tait, Associate Specialist and Multidisciplinary Team Lead for Breast Surgery at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This commitment to ongoing funding is fantastic news for our patients as Magseed has transformed the hospital experience for our 150 breast cancer patients who require lumpectomies here at the Trust every year.

“This cutting edge technology brings huge benefits including reduced hospital appointments which helps decrease a woman’s stress, as well as bringing greater surgical accuracy in pinpointing the tumour, which leads to less breast tissue being removed, meaning a better cosmetic outcome for our patients.

“For the Trust, it has brought better operating theatre utilisation as surgery can be scheduled for any time of the day and not just afternoons, which it was previously (as the patient had to come to the hospital in the morning for the wire to be located).”

Julie O’Riordan, Deputy Medical Director for Airedale NHS Foundation Trust said: “This funding is great news. Using Magseed makes for a much better experience for our patients: it cuts down the need for multiple trips to hospital and it’s more comfortable than wire insertion, meaning it’s much less stressful for patients.

“As Catherine says, it also enables us to be much more flexible in planning surgery, as patients no longer need the wire inserted in Radiology beforehand. This means patients aren’t having to wait around to have their procedure done, which can add to their anxiety.” 

The WYH Cancer Alliance is part of West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership.