Impalpable Breast Cancer and Service Delivery During the COVID-19 Pandemic – the Role of Radiofrequency Tag localization

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Jonathan Strickland
Beatrix Elsberger
Gerald Lip
Mairi Fuller
Yazan Masannat


Breast Cancer, Breast Surgery, Radiofrequency, Covid-19


Background: Radiofrequency tags are used to localize breast lesions for surgery. During the Covid-19 pandemic, these offered the flexibility of inserting the Tags days or weeks before surgery. This made logistics of planning theatres lists easier, especially with most of the lists having been moved off site.
Methods: In the 7 weeks following the first lockdown in the UK, we reviewed all planned admissions for breast surgery looking at the types of surgery offered, type of localization used and assessed which cases would not have been able to go ahead had radiofrequency tags not been available.
Results: Out of 85 planned admission, 83 had surgery, 11 were for re-excision of margins and 72 for their first breast surgery excision (mastectomy or breast conservation). Out of the 54 that had breast conserving surgery, 40 needed localization, out of whom 27 had radiofrequency tags. Looking at theatre order list and location of surgery, 20 out of the 27 would not have had their surgery had radiofrequency tags not been available, which is 50% of the patients needing localization.
Conclusion: Radiofrequency tags are new devices used for breast lesion localization that offer a much-needed flexibility especially as seen during the Covid-19 pandemic.


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