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Health Watch: New Device For Biopsy Avoids Surgery

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Imagine you are at the doctor's office and he tells you there is a tiny spot in your lung. It could be cancer. To find out, your options have been to wait and see if it grows or go to surgery for a biopsy.

Now there's another option that the Mayo Clinic says is an outpatient procedure that can get you a fast, accurate diagnosis with minimal pain.

Shirley Vangundy's pace of life was disrupted when doctors told her a spot on her lung could be cancer. To find out she needed a biopsy.

Because of the small size of the spot, the gentle movements of Vangundy’s breathing meant she might have to have surgery instead of a less-invasive image-guided needle biopsy.

"With imagery we notoriously have had trouble with breathing and respiratory motion," said radiologist Dr. Stephanie Carlson.

That's because every time a patient breathes, the spot that doctors are trying to poke a needle into moves. It is like trying to hit a moving target.

But with the new breath hold device developed at Mayo Clinic, doctors can perform out patient needle biopsies on spots smaller than a dime.

The patient wears a belt around the abdomen that monitors breathing. A display screen lights up as he or she breathes. When the light turns red, they hold their breath. Each time they hold it, the nodule moves to the same place, allowing doctors accurate access.

"What this really brings to the patient is value. They are getting the highest level of care in an efficient manner," radiologist Dr. Claire Bender said.

Vangundy’s biopsy showed no cancer. And the next day she returned to the calm pace of country life she so enjoys.

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