From the category archives:

Wire/Needle Localaiztion


Ever since my surgeon and his assistant started to babble about a “procedure with a wire” I assumed my tumor would be removed with a wire, as opposed to carved out by a razor blade or an exacto knife.  As silly as it sounds, I have been mentally stuck on the image  of a wire lasso slung around my lump.

Breast cancer excision

Children often get stuck on words that will, in their immature minds, take on strange and  incomprehensible meanings. Yet children usually do not ask for clarification, they  just conjure up these bizarre images in their heads. And apparently, so do 60-year olds.

The scene playing out in my head has been this: the surgeon makes a slit in my breast, of the kind I do when I want to stuff a prune into a pork roast. iStock_000000844923XSmall[1]

He then proceeds to take a thin wire and shapes it into a lasso around my lump before he pulls the tumor out,  roots and all, like a radish pulled up from its garden bed.

The mysterious wire procedure (needle localization) turns out to be a procedure where a wire is inserted in each breast before surgery to later guide the surgeon to the right place during the operation. It is important to have the “wire guide” where tissue is to be removed from lesions that cannot be felt, or perhaps not even seen seen by the naked eye. The exact spot where the wire needs to be is identified on a computer monitor, hooked up to either a mammogram or an ultrasound machine, and the wire insertion is preceded by the insertion of a hollow needle.

Before the needle is plunged into my breast,the skin is cleaned and numbed. The doctor and the technician checks a computer screen to make sure the needle is in the right place before a thin wire is pushed down to replace the needle.

Doctor Competent and her nurse, two middle aged women, are both jovial and seem to enjoy working as a team. They banter and tease as would two sisters on good terms, or two old childhood friends. Like a well choreographed dance troupe, they anticipate each others every move. They  respond to each other before a word is ever spoken. And they giggle and laugh a lot while still  maintaining their professional aura.

Despite their pleasantries, the procedure hurts, especially when they try to stick the wire right down in the tumor site.“But of course,” says Dr. Competent, smiling. “It is only natural that it will hurt you more in that area.” It also tickles when the nurse puts her hands on me and tries to adjust my position in the machine. I squirm and the nurse shouts: “You moved!”

“She moved again?” asks Dr. Competent.

They both laugh although they have to start the whole thing over.

Finally, I end up with a bopping extra-terrestrial antenna sticking out of each breast. The nurse bends them down and tapes them to my breast before I shuffle back to my gurney to wait for the “real” procedure.