Advances in Breast Cancer Technology

By: Dr. Liza Thalheimer, Breast Surgical Oncologist


Houston Methodist Willowbrook Sets Pace with Innovations

As breast cancer deaths continue to drop steadily nationwide, Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital is proud to offer pivotal new technologies that promote better outcomes, including an innovative device enabling more precise tumor removal.

“Houston Methodist Willowbrook is the first hospital in Houston using SAVI SCOUT®, a tumor localization and guidance system providing real-time images during breast-conserving surgery, such as lumpectomy or partial mastectomy. It replaces older technology that required placing a wire into a patient’s breast just before surgery. Instead, it uses a handpiece to accurately detect the location of a SCOUT reflector placed in the breast up to 30 days before surgery, and with it, the breast tumor,” said Dr. Liza Thalheimer, a breast surgical oncologist at Houston Methodist Breast Care Center at Willowbrook.

“Because the SAVI SCOUT has no wire, it gives the patient a little more comfort,” Thalheimer said. “By using this type of device, we’re also able to safely remove less breast tissue, improving the patient’s cosmetic result.”


Data from the National Cancer Institute shows steady declines in deaths from breast cancer since 1990, and mortality decreased 1.9 percent each year from 2002 to 2011. Much of the improved survival rate, Thalheimer noted, is due to innovations in breast cancer detection and treatments.

Among these, Houston Methodist Willowbrook has adopted two technologies Thalheimer feels exemplify the hospital’s commitment to embracing the safest and most progressive options available. They include:

Houston Methodist Willowbrook Interior and Exterior photos January 17, 2016. (photo by Richard Carson)
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Digital breast tomosynthesis, which reconstructs 3-D breast images by taking multiple cross-section views of breast tissue from various angles. “With these 3-D mammograms, we’re able to detect cancers earlier so patients can often avoid mastectomies if they choose, as well as decreasing the chances they will need more aggressive postoperative therapies like chemotherapy,” she said.

Oncotype DX testing, which analyzes groups of genes from breast tumor samples and determines how likely an estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) tumor is to recur or respond to chemotherapy.

“It’s important for our patients to know we have a whole team of cancer-treatment professionals who are knowledgeable about all the newer technologies and studies about pre- and postoperative treatments,” Thalheimer said.

Schedule Your Mammogram

Healthy women ages 40 and older should undergo annual mammograms to screen for early signs of breast cancer. For more information or to schedule your mammogram online, visit or call 281.737.PINK (7465).