Like so many other aspects of our daily lives, the experience of going to the hospital has been transformed by COVID-19. During the pandemic, doctors, nurses and administrators are working hard to shorten your visit and reduce the risk of infection, but walking through those doors can still be unnerving.
For people living with cancer, avoiding the hospital isn’t an option — and can be particularly daunting given the added risk and vulnerability they face. However, infection control specialists and their teams have been highly diligent. It’s not just that there are plexiglass dividers and a few extra pumps of hand sanitizer available. Behind the scenes and beyond the obvious signs of change, the entire infection control process at hospitals has been radically and completely transformed.
And that’s the nature of medicine and healthcare — it’s ever-changing; it’s always adapting to different circumstances and new technology. The ways that “things have always been done” are constantly being re-examined and improved to better serve patients.
One example of a recent, more patient-centered advancement is in the localization of breast tumors. Wire-guided localization has been an important and effective step in breast cancer treatment for decades, but doctors and researchers have been in search of better techniques to improve the patient experience and — particularly in a time of COVID — to provide a better and safer way forward.
With the need for implantation on the same day as surgery, the wire-guided localization procedure can lead to the patient uncomfortably waiting in the hospital for several hours. All of that extra time can increase the risk of COVID-19 exposure, adding more anxiety to an already stressful and difficult situation. A protruding wire can also be uncomfortable andinconvenient as a patient waits for surgery, there’s also a chance it can move or break, leading to inaccuracy or even another procedure.
So, can that chance be reduced or eliminated altogether? And what can doctors do to make their patients’ visits shorter and safer — given that the realities of the pandemic have put a spotlight on these issues of time, comfort, effectiveness and safety?
One alternative is wire-free localization, which involves a small, safe marker being carefully implanted to mark the location of the lesion.
Instead of being performed only on the day of the surgery, wire-free localization can be done at a time that is convenient for the patient. This reduces the amount of time spent at the hospital and lessens the risk of infection. The wire-free option is also small enough that the patient can’t feel it or accidentally move it, but it can still be easily and accurately detected during the procedure.
Without a wire to follow, wire-free localization also gives surgeons more options to position the surgical scar with the goal of optimizing cosmetic outcomes while making sure to remove the cancer. On the road to recovery, mental well-being is every bit as important as physical health. For personal reasons, some people could choose to have a unique reminder of their journey, while others may want it to be less visible.
Obviously, the goal of innovation in health care should always be to improve outcomes for patients. But it’s also vital to give patients a greater ability to take an active role in their own care and to carefully consider the experience from the patient’s perspective.
In a time of COVID, particularly, health care practitioners and medical device manufacturers should try to ease the anxiety of walking through the hospital doors in every practical and possible way.
Pres. & CEO at MOLLI Surgical, dedicated to bringing people together for impact in healthcare through medical devices.
What can medical professionals do to make breast cancer patients’ surgical visits shorter and safer — given that the realities of the pandemic have put a spotlight on the issues of time, comfort, effectiveness and safety? Read my latest blog with MOLLI Surgical to learn more. #breastcancer #breastsurgery #breastimaging #lumpectomy #surgicaloncology #patientcenteredcare #medicaldevices #medicalinnovation #covid19