Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers in the world, with 2.3 million diagnoses in 2020 according to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO). Since in 1980s, survival rates have increased steadily, and now in many parts of the world exceed 90%. The WHO’s Global Breast Cancer Initiative, which was established to reduce breast cancer in low-middle income countries, states that the prevailing factor in improving survival rates is early detection.

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, however, between 1989 and 2020, there has been a 43% decline in death rates. The American Cancer Society attributes this primarily due to finding breast cancer earlier through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatments.

Breast-conserving surgery, also known as lumpectomies, is a treatment option for many women with early-stage cancers. For this operation, a surgeon only removes the cancer and a border of normal breast tissue around it. This border is then checked by a pathologist to ensure that there are no further cancer cells.

Lumpectomy surgeries are less invasive, removing less breast tissue and leaving minimum scarring. The U.S. National Institutes of Health released a statement back in 1990 stating that a lumpectomy followed by radiation was preferred over mastectomy to treat early-stage breast cancer, and current studies indicated that this is still the case. A study released in 2021 and published in the JAMA Surgery journal followed 48,986 Swedish women who were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and concluded that lumpectomy plus radiation still offered better survival rates than mastectomy plus radiation and mastectomy alone.

Innovations in wire components

In early-stage breast cancer, it is not uncommon for changes in the breast tissue to not be detectable via a manual examination. While a mammogram can show surgeons abnormal areas of the breast, the surgeon will need to carry out a wire guided excision biopsy, or wire localisation, to detect exactly where the lesion is in order to remove it.

Wire-component developer Alleima designs and manufactures custom wire trademarked Exera® for this purpose, ensuring that they are perfectly configured for the application. According to Cacie McDorman, engineering manager at Alleima: “Generally the localisation wires are made of either stainless steel or nitinol, which allows for flexibility and strength. Both are always important when you’re putting anything in the body.

“They’re generally twisted wires, with two different twisting patterns – one is tighter than the other. That functions as a cue for the doctors when they’re inserting it into the breast tissue as to how far it needs to go.”

Alleima designs and manufactures wire components to order with machines specifically built for the application. Medical wire-based components for wire localisation come in different lengths to accommodate for the size of the patient’s breast, which ensures that the surgeon can reach as far into the breast tissue as required and make sure enough of the wire’s tail-end protrudes to facilitate the extraction.

Utilising expertise in metallurgy, more than 200 alloys, and various customisations such as coiling and coatings, Alleima has worked with manufacturers to design and develop medical wire components for devices such as guidewires, pacemakers, and wire localisation components.