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One Giant Oops …


Breast cancer patients in California and Michigan who participated in studies of their disease now find themselves facing a different problem: because of a device used during surgery done for the study, the women now have hundreds of particles of the heavy metal tungsten lodged in their breast tissue and chest muscles, reports The New York Times' Denise Grady. Not much is known about tungsten's effects on health, however it does make mammograms harder to read because the particles can resemble calcium deposits, which can be indicative of breast cancer, Grady says, adding that this complication is "especially troubling" for the women who have already had breast cancer and are at risk for recurrence. In California, 27 women have been affected, and two women in Michigan are facing the same problem. At least one of the women, fearing what tungsten might do to her, including cause cancer, is considering having her breasts and the underlying tissue completely removed, Grady says. The device that cause the problem, the Axxent FlexiShield Mini, is a tungsten and silicone disc was supposed to shield a patient's healthy tissue during radiation treatments. The manufacturer, Xoft, was bought in December by iCad — the company has recalled the device in the wake of the tungsten particle problem.

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