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New surgical technology a ‘game changer’ for breast cancer patients

Mar 11, 2024

Home 5 News 5 New surgical technology a ‘game changer’ for breast cancer patients

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New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Monday, March 11, 2024

Breast cancer surgeon Dr. Chakshu Sharma is providing Aberdeen Hospital patients with a new standard of care in the Northern Zone, thanks to funding from the Aberdeen Health Foundation and partnerships with Nova Scotia Health and Dalhousie University. The technology is relatively new and the first to be offered in Nova Scotia.

MOLLI breast seed localization technology is designed to help surgeons remove lesions more efficiently and increase patient comfort. After completing initial trials at the Aberdeen Hospital in the summer of 2023, it became the standard of care soon after.

“To understand the need for the technology, you also need to understand that the majority of breast cancer diagnoses are not clinically palpable, meaning we can’t feel them,” explains Dr. Sharma, who has served on the Aberdeen Health Foundation Board of Directors for over three years now. “Increasingly, breast cancers are being diagnosed radiographically, so to remove them, we use something to mark the location of the cancer before the surgery takes place.”

Before the introduction of the new MOLLI technology, the care team used wire technology to guide their surgeries. While it was the best available care then, this method had its drawbacks. “The patient would have to come in the morning of their surgery and have a metal wire inserted into their breast, the tip of which has a hook which is used to mark the location of the cancer,” describes Dr. Sharma. The other end of the wire, which would remain exposed on the outside of the body, would need to be treated with extreme care. Not only was this uncomfortable for patients, but a bump or displacement of the wire would mean disrupting the entire surgical plan.

“With the new MOLLI seed localization technology, a small 3.2mm magnetic ‘seed’ is placed within or near the breast cancer, as early as one month before the surgery date. It’s a short procedure that may take as little as 30 minutes and compared to the wire technology, is much more comfortable for the patients. Once the seed is placed, they can go about their lives with minimal restrictions until their surgery date.”

Not only is seed technology more comfortable for patients, but it allows surgeons to operate with more accuracy. “With the wire technology, the hook itself was around 2cm in size, and because we are basing our surgical plans on radiographic measurements and we can’t feel anything while in the surgery, we would remove that 2cm of tissue as well as the normal tissue around it when some cancerous lesions are as small as 7mm.”

“Now, with this technology, I can use a wand and iPad tablet to locate the magnetic seed precisely, so I have real-time feedback where the cancer is located during surgery. If I know the cancer is only 2cm in diameter, I don’t need to be taking tennis ball-sized amounts of tissue. By reducing the size of the breast tissue that needs to be removed, we can provide more cosmetically pleasing results for the patient. As a surgeon, I can feel more positive knowing that I’m not removing more tissue than I need to. It’s a game changer in the world of breast cancer on multiple perspectives.”

Photo caption: Breast cancer surgeon Dr. Chakshu Sharma (middle) is providing Aberdeen Hospital patients with a new standard of care in the Northern Zone. MOLLI Breast Seed Localization technology allows surgeons to precisely locate breast cancer lesions in real-time during surgery – an incredible advantage over previous technologies. Dr. Sharma is pictured with Faye Visser-Booth (left) and Elizabeth Chenell (right) of the Women Alike Breast Cancer Survivor’s Society. A donation from the Society helped Aberdeen Health Foundation fund the MOLLI technology, as well as partnerships with Nova Scotia Health and Dalhousie University.

One of the most significant impacts for the hospital has been on scheduling. Wire technology requires much coordination between the diagnostic imaging department and the surgical office, which could delay surgery dates. Now, with the ability of the MOLLI seed to be placed up to one month before a patient’s surgery date, the process is more streamlined. “For the patient,” adds Dr. Sharma, “It’s helpful to break these procedures into different days. Breast cancer is already such a mind-heavy diagnosis. Patients must undergo lymph node marker placement in the days leading up to their surgery as well – it becomes very overwhelming to be adding procedure after procedure surrounding the surgery date. Patients are grateful to now be able to get this small procedure done earlier and then continue to live their lives.”

“It means there’s hope. It means that one person can start with an idea in their head, and with the right partners and communication channels, you can see a project come to fruition.”

Dr. Sharma began practicing in Pictou County over six years ago and has made it a goal to contribute to the betterment of the community. “I’m a doctor, so I look to my field to find ways to uplift the community. I got involved with the Aberdeen Health Foundation as a board member over three years ago. Once I had a seat at the table it empowered me to be part of those discussions where I feel I can bring about meaningful change.”

Those discussions catalyzed bringing this new technology to Pictou County, as Dr. Sharma brought the idea to the board early on. “I didn’t want to seem biased, because this directly affects my work,” jokes Sharma. “But I told them about it, and they saw the implications for patient access and care right away.”

It was a no-brainer for the Foundation, which wanted to change the standard of care but knew that the technology came with added costs. To get the health system to consider it, the Foundation jumped in to fund the costs of a pilot program as well as the equipment, so the system could evaluate the benefits of the switch.

Since that first conversation, Dr. Sharma has joined forces with Dalhousie University and Nova Scotia Health’s Innovation Hub in her efforts to bring the technology to Nova Scotia. “In the realm of introducing new technology, this didn’t need bricks and mortar, walls moved, or major reconstruction, so I think it interested everyone as we moved forward.”

As excitement about the project spread, the Women Alike Breast Cancer Survivor’s Society joined as a funding partner with a donation to the Aberdeen Health Foundation. Society President Faye Visser-Booth didn’t hesitate to support a project so perfectly aligned with their mission. “The advances I’ve seen in these years have been amazing,” says Visser-Booth, a 19-year breast cancer survivor. “Our mandate at Women Alike is to do all we can to improve the care of the newly diagnosed – the MOLLI seed technology does this and we are so pleased to have been able to support this advancement.”

Now, MOLLI technology is the standard of care for the Northern Zone and the Central Zone, which trialed and introduced it on the same timeline. Many other sites across Nova Scotia have since shown interest and began their trials.

“I felt so encouraged by everyone at the Foundation,” adds Dr. Sharma. “They were so positive about the impact of this. I was very humbled by their trust in my vision of bringing this to life. As much as everyone at the Foundation likes to give me credit for bringing the initiative forward, we all worked together to make this possible.”

“For me, it means that one person can start with an idea in their head, and with the right partners and communication channels, you can see a project come to fruition.”



After age 40, all Nova Scotian women with a health card are eligible for a yearly mammogram with no doctor’s referral.

Call toll-free to book your yearly screening: 1-800-565-0548



The Aberdeen Health Foundation is the leading charity for enhancing health care in Pictou County. In 2023 the Foundation invested over $2 million to fund medical equipment and enhance health programs at the Aberdeen Hospital and in our community.

Michelle Ferris
Executive Director
Aberdeen Health Foundation

902-752-7600 ext. 4442