LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. (WFLA) – New technology available only at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center is helping surgeons treat breast cancer patients.
The “Spy” machine allows surgeons to potentially perform a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery all in one process.
“The way the technology works…florescent marker is injected through the IV by the anesthesiologist. And then the ‘Spy’ machine itself utilizes a light laser system that looks at the skin and looks at the profusion. And profusion is just another word for the blood flow to the skin edges,” said plastic surgeon Dr. Anna Widmyer.
“So I use it in the middle of surgery while I have a sizer in and it helps tell me how much pressure it’s putting on the skin. Then I know whether or not the skin will be able to handle an implant.”
Dr. Widmyer fought to get the technology at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center. The hospital received “Spy” machines in Nov. 2018.
“The one that I utilize most of the time is a pretty large box in the room and I bring the laser part over the patient… You have to bring it just a certain distance over the incision and then I can see on a computer screen and watch the fluorescent dye coming in,” Dr. Widmyer explained.
“So you can watch the whole thing on the screen and I can also take images and pictures to show patients so they maybe understand why or why I can’t put implants in at the time of surgery.”
Dr. Widmyer utilized the technology when treating Marlene Wynarczuk, who did need two separate surgeries.
Wynarczuk was diagnosed with aggressive triple negative breast cancer about a year ago.
She chose to have a bilateral mastectomy and has not looked back.
“It changes you. Totally. I’m not Marlene that I used to be, it’s like ‘the new Marlene.’ It’s not worse. In some cases it’s better. You learn to accept things differently. I keep positive and keep going and I feel wonderful,” she said.
Dr. Widmyer knows the importance of quick reconstruction for women suffering from the disease.
“Studies have shown having breast reconstruction really helps with your self-confidence and reducing anxiety down the road. So I think it’s important to talk to your surgeon about all of the options you have.”
She said the mastectomy and reconstruction surgery takes around three to four hours if she is doing an implant-based reconstruction, rather than tissue-based.
Patients can’t do any heavy lifting post-surgery, so they are usually out of work for a few weeks.
Dr. Widmyer said at that time, patients are finding out their final pathology from the surgery and learning if they’ll need chemotherapy or radiation in addition to the mastectomy.
Both Dr. Widmyer and Wynarczuk are advocates of mammograms and early detection.
“You’ve got to get your mammograms. That would be my big thing. It’s like, make sure you go every year. If I didn’t go every year and didn’t go on time, I don’t think I’m be sitting right here with you,” Wynarczuk said.
“You should really start mammograms at age 40, have them every year,” explained Dr. Widmyer.
“Look for a center that has 3D imaging… or a mammogram that is tomography, because the sensitivity is higher.”
Dr. Widmyer says if you have a history of breast cancer in your family, you should start getting mammograms 10 years younger than the youngest diagnosis in your family.
She encourages genetic testing as well.
Lakewood Ranch Medical Center’s Breast Imaging Center was recently designated a “Breast Imaging Center of Excellence” by the American College of Radiology.