New technology at SLMHC brings more precise breast cancer surgery: Magseed technology is now here!

For years, patients with breast cancer who required a lumpectomy have undergone a multi-step process on the days leading up to their surgery. The process is often uncomfortable for patients and can sometimes cause delays and added stress on patients.  But now, here at Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre (SLMHC), we are thrilled to announce the purchase and use of the Endomag system – a game-changer for breast cancer patients. 

“Compared to a conventional procedure known as wire localization before breast surgery, our newly purchased Endomag system allows the diagnostic imaging department to precisely mark the sites of lesions and tumors in a highly accurate method that can occur at the time of biopsy, which eliminates the need for additional procedures to occur immediately before the surgical intervention,” explains Dr. Neety Panu, lead radiologist at SLMHC.

Not only is this cutting-edge technology making it easier for the SLMHC health team and our patients, but this is an important step forward for rural hospitals as SLMHC is now the first hospital in northwestern Ontario, and one of only two rural hospitals in Canada, to adopt this technology and demonstrate that this kind of technology can be accessible to more Canadians.

“We could be at the forefront here with this technology, as many smaller hospitals like ours experience logistical challenges for breast cancer patients,” explains Dr. Justin Poling, surgeon at SLMHC. “There are hundreds of hospitals like ours who I think we could be a really good example for, and this technology has potential to be game changing for Canada’s geographically-distributed population.”

The Endomag system process starts with tiny Magseed marker, that is easily placed by the radiologist before the surgery. Ideally, it is placed at the time of biopsy so that the patient requires only one visit/procedure before surgery in order to mark the exact site of breast cancer. Once placed, it can’t be broken or dislodged in any way, and it is detectable using a Sentimag probe. The use of Magseed markers at SLMHC provides patients with a more accurate placement of a detector pre-surgically that enables a more seamless transition to their surgical care, and for a better outcome post-surgically.

We could be at the forefront here with this technology, as many smaller hospitals like ours experience logistical challenges for breast cancer patients.

– Dr. Justin Poling

Prior to this, a wire would have been inserted into a patient’s breast on the same day as the surgery. This meant that patients would first be scheduled with the radiologist in the diagnostic imaging department, and then make their way to their scheduled surgery. Coordinating the care between two different departments results in a logistical challenge and also requires two steps for the patient (the first at the time of biopsy and the second being a very early start on the day of the surgical excision).

“If a lesion or area of concern is spotted and surgery is recommended, in the past a patient would be booked for when the radiologist would be on-site for the localizer wire insertion. Because the wire could come loose or be dislodged, the timing between the wire insertion and surgery needed to be the same day,” explains DeAnna Lance, medical radiation technologist at SLMHC. “This meant that all our breast surgery patients would be booked ahead to meet the schedule that resulted in coordination between two very busy radiology and surgical departments.  Now, with the Magseed technology, the radiologist can implant the Magseed at any time and it will stay there until it is surgically removed. This means we can have patients have their biopsies/Magseed placement independent of the schedules of departments and this removes a big hurdle in logistical care for the patient.”

“It really frees us up with regards to a lot of scheduling challenges,” adds Poling. “It makes us less dependent on the time frame. Not only that, but there are so many other benefits to our patients, including a lot less travel and stress. A patient might have had to drive to Thunder Bay to get a radioactive tracker injected at the end of the day, then once injected they’d have to drive back right away since we would only have 12-18 hours to operate after that injection. In the middle of winter, driving on a dark highway at night and worrying about your surgery the next morning… this was obviously stressful for our patients.”

Now, our team at SLMHC can inject a patient with Magtrace and that need for radioactive tracer injection and back-and-forth travel to Thunder Bay is eliminated. This technology is hugely advantageous for patients, there’s no question about that.

The use of Magseed markers at SLMHC was made possible through the generous support of the SLMHC Foundation, who provided approximately $95,000 in funding after the SLMHC team sent their proposal in for the equipment request this past summer.

“Our rep at Endomag said this was one of the quickest turn arounds for the time between the presentation of the technology to the processing of the purchase… we are thrilled that the SLMHC Foundation understood how valuable this equipment purchase was to our patients and team and that they acted so fast to make this dream a reality,” says Poling.

“The breast imaging department and patients are truly grateful for the SLMHC Foundation in bringing this new technology to our region,” adds Lance.  “We are able to improve the efficiency and decrease the time delays of patients requiring surgical removal of suspicious or cancerous breast lesions.”

Poling adds that for other rural hospitals looking at the purchase of the Endomag system, that while it does cost a lot up front, it does save the health care system more.

We can’t thank the Foundation enough for seeing the value in this and how it will positively impact so many patients and their families.

Dr. Neety Panu

“With a huge reduction in travel costs related to breast cancer treatment and surgery, this new technology saves the health care system a lot of money. There are a lot of rural hospitals across Canada that have well-trained breast surgeons who are either not able to do breast procedures or facing significant logistical challenges. This new technology is going to open doors for a lot of hospitals to reinitiate breast cancer programs and provide better care for patients. I think we are setting a really good example,” adds Poling.

 “In the era of COVID-19 and throughout this pandemic there have been so many hardships in health care across the country, however despite all of that, to see a project like this lift off quickly and efficiently speaks volumes to the level of collaboration between our physicians and administration here at SLMHC,” says Panu. “We can’t thank the Foundation enough for seeing the value in this and how it will positively impact so many patients and their families.”

“SLMHC is so thankful for the continuous support of the SLMHC Foundation, and the tireless work of volunteers and community members, who ensure crucial funding is provided for necessary equipment and upgrades at SLMHC,” adds Heather Lee, President and CEO of SLMHC. “We’re excited to be a part of something so innovative and providing better care, closer to home.”

After training and completing trials of the technology at SLMHC, the surgical and diagnostic imaging team is excited to announce the technology is here and already in use for breast cancer patients. SLMHC is proud to continue growing our care capacity as we strive to provide crucial services to keep quality health care close to home.

To learn more about the important work the Foundation does, visit the Foundation website at  To learn more about SLMHC’s mammography services and breast care in our diagnostic imaging department here at SLMHC, visit

In September 2021, Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre’s surgical team received the new Sentimag Localization System that will be used for breast procedures. The Sentimag system uses a magnetic sensing to detect magnetic markers by using Magseed or Magtrace method. Pictured, from left: Jeremy Doke, Sentimag Representative, Dr. Eric Touzin, Dr. Justin Poling, and Dr. Matthew Parkinson.