30 Dec 2021

Unique advancements and innovation helping to improve health outcomes for women

As a breast cancer surgeon I very much see my role as one of helping women to overcome breast cancer so they can go on to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.   But importantly, I also see my role as one of helping to find ways to improve detection, enhance treatment outcomes and reduce the overall impact of both the disease and treatment on people’s quality of life.

I have dedicated much time to networking and connecting with colleagues across the globe, seeking out revolutionary practices that are being trialed overseas and exploring new methodology that is delivering positive results in other areas of medicine.

Without innovation and the advancement of new techniques, we can’t hope to change outcomes for people.

Green dye offers reduced risk of allergic reaction

This is one of the reasons why I have implemented the use of a new technique involving infrared and green dye (indocyanine green) to improve our ability to detect the presence of cancer in the lymph nodes.  This is a departure from the blue dye that has been used by the medical profession for many years, which carries a risk of allergic reaction.

I discovered this approach being used in other sectors of medicine as part of my research and in undertaking further investigation felt that it would be ideal for the detection of breast cancer in the lymph nodes.

Infrared, sometimes called infrared light, is electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths longer than those of visible light and invisible to the human eye.  Infrared radiation is emitted or absorbed by molecules when they change their rotational-vibrational movements.

Sentinel nodes are the first few lymph nodes into which a tumor drains.  A sentinel node biopsy involves injecting a tracer material, usually blue dye, that helps to locate the sentinel nodes during surgery. The sentinel nodes are removed and examined and if they are free of cancer, then it is unlikely to have spread and removing additional lymph nodes is unnecessary.

The procedure is usually done under general anaesthestic and it involves making a small incision in the area over the lymph nodes.  The blue dye is injected and a gamma detector is then used to determine where the dye has accumulated.  Blue dye stains the sentinel nodes bright blue making it easier to identify them.

Better outcomes for my patients

The problem with blue dye is that one in a thousand women are allergic to the dye and can have a severe reaction to it.  At times this can be life threatening.  It is not a pleasant issue to experience and it is something that we could manage better.

We are seeing a much lower rate of allergic reaction to the green dye. In fact, the number is one in 10,000.

Using the green dye and the hand held infrared wand, we are able to detect the sentinel nodes with the same level of ease as the blue dye, but without the increased risks associated.

My hope is that through my work and demonstrated positive outcomes with green dye, that we may be able to see the adoption of the new technique across Australia and overseas.

You can find a lot of helpful information on my website about my work, activities and what to expect if you are referred to a breast cancer surgeon: https://www.drsanjaywarrier.com.au/helpful-links