If you, a family member or a friend has ever had a tumor, you know that the experience can prove quite unsettling. If so, it may interest you to learn more about a relatively new implant that researchers have developed to help track tumours.
A tumor tracker implant enables physicians to monitor the growth of cancer cells. Some can even predict if a tumour will grow again.
This kind of cutting-edge technology is costly. Insurance may or may not cover the procedure if you’re a Canadian citizen.
Keep reading for a closer look at tumour tracker implant technology and insurance in Canada.
Tumors - Let's First Understand What They Are
Simply put, tumors are growths. They become an issue when an abnormal mass of tissue forms due to cells growing and dividing more than they are supposed to.
There are two types of tumors. Benign which are not cancerous, and Malignant, which are.
Who Qualifies for a Tumor Tracker Implant?
In Canada, every single provincial health care plan across the country covers cancer treatment. These interventions might include intravenous drugs such as chemo. It might also include home-based treatments such as pills for cancer treatment.
Health coverage in Canada covers cancer drug treatment no matter the type. However, this kind of insurance only covers treatments that have been reviewed and approved by the provincial government.
How Long Do Tumour Tracker Implants Last?
Researchers make tumour trackers out of surgical-grade stainless steel. The tracker is smaller than a grain of rice.
In Canada, the provincial government has approved the trackers for insertion into any soft tissue area that requires monitoring. After inserting the tracking device inside the body, they locate it using a magnetic trace.
When physicians are monitoring the tracker, it remains inert. However, it will stay detectable indefinitely. In theory, physicians can install the tracker as far ahead of surgery as they’d like.
A tumour tracker will provide the same high-quality signal whether surgeons inserted it a day ago or 1,000 days ago.
In this way, a tumour tracker is different from a radio seed. A tumour tracker is nonradioactive. As a result, it does not decay and—hypothetically—has an indefinite life span.
However, many provinces only cover tumour tracker insertion up to 30 days prior to planned surgery. You’ll need to check the rules of your province to see exactly when coverage starts for this kind of device.
Are There Different Types of Tumor Tracker Implants?
A handful of researchers are currently working on or have developed tumour tracker technology. For example, the Endomag Magseed is already on the market. The recommended application for the device is for the localizing of breast lesions.
The small seed helps physicians locate the site of cancerous tumours. After pinpointing a tumour, physicians can remove the growth.
Scientists develop the Magseed for long-term implantation. It enables surgeons to locate tumours more flexibly and precisely during surgery.
For example, surgeons may insert the Magseed near a marked lesion. The device itself will remain active.
Also, it will not break down or dislodge. However, it will become active when surgeons pass a probing device near it called the Sentimag.
Meanwhile, MIT researchers have also developed an implantable cancer tracking device. They designed the device for surgeons to implant during a biopsy. It provides physicians with real-time information regarding whether a tumour is growing or shrinking.
Elsewhere, researchers in Germany have developed a microchip tumour sensor. As with other devices, surgeons implant the device close to a tumour to monitor its growth.
The tracker works by monitoring oxygen levels near the tissue. With this information, physicians can evaluate whether a tumour is expanding.
Finally, in yet another MIT innovation, researchers have tested an under skin GPS tracker for humans on chicken fat. Using a micro GPS for the human body, researchers have successfully tracked tumours in these test subjects.
The ReMix system enables MIT researchers to track tumours. They can also use the GPS tracking device for the human body for other applications such as dispensing drugs.
Are There Side Effects?
Again, tumour tracker implants are non radioactive seeds. Scientists might encapsulate some of these devices in a bio-inert glass. This kind of material reduces the likelihood that your body will inject the implant.
As far as pain, patients report that it hurts no more than giving blood or receiving a body piercing. However, the insertion may leave a small scar. Usually, it will heal in a few weeks.
Patients have also demonstrated less anxiety during the tumour tracking implant procedure. Meanwhile, physicians report that the devices are much easier to use compared to other tumour tracking methods.
Tumour tracker technology is relatively new. There’s little known about the long-term health risk of these or any other microchip implantations.
Limited research has shown a possible link between microchip implants and cancerous tumours in rodents and dogs. Still, health authorities around the world have approved of the technologies. Meanwhile, there’s been no direct study of this effect as it applies to tumour tracker implants.
There’s also a small potential for allergic reactions depending on the composition of an implant. For example, the Magseed is not officially approved for patients with an allergic reaction to nickel.
However, manufacturers of the Magseed point to the fact that it’s an improvement over the use of stainless-steel guidewire. The Magseed produces significantly less exposure to nickel.
Stainless steel surgical-grade equipment contains 10% to 15% nickel. The Magseed tumour tracker, however, has a nickel composition of less than .23%.
What Kind of Maintenance Do They Require?
It appears that tumour trackers require little to no maintenance. For instance, the Endomag website states that the likelihood of its Magseed migrating after instrumentation is extremely low.
First, the website points at the small size of the device. It also explains that the device has a twisted structure.
The structure promotes tissue in-growth. The in-growth anchors the device firmly in the tissue.
As a result, it’s unlikely that the device will migrate and require any type of maintenance. This is the same result experienced by patients with whom surgeons have inserted a traditional radio seed.
Also, patients need not worry about complications due to inserting the Magseed under an MRI. The deployment needle for the device is made using stainless steel.
Resultantly, it’s perfectly fine for physicians to use an MRI to insert a Magseed tumour tracker. The MRI will not cause heating.
Also, it will not cause the seed to move. However, like when inserting any other surgical device, the Magseed will leave a microscopic void in the patient.
Do the Provincial Health Care Programs Cover Tumour Tracker Implants?
It’s not always clear what procedures are covered by the national health plan in Canada. In general, however, Canada’s health care system covers all medically required hospital stays. It also covers all prescription drugs during the stay.
The system does not require direct payment to a clinic, hospital or physician. Also, there are no deductible fees for insurance services.
However, there are some hospital services that are only partially covered. Again, exact coverage amounts vary depending on the province where you reside.
Private insurance may help to cover services not included in the national health plan. Also, your employer-provided private insurance might provide extended health care benefits to help with costs that aren’t covered under the national plan.
Do Private Health Care Plans Cover Tumour Tracker Implants?
There’s no published information about whether private Canadian insurers will provide coverage for this kind of innovation. As a result, you’ll need to speak to your insurer directly to find out if they cover tumour trackers.
If you believe that you can benefit from a tumour tracker and you need private coverage, you must shop around for the best plan available. Fortunately, there’s an online clearinghouse that makes finding the right private insurance easy.
Find the Perfect Private Insurance Today
Hopefully, our review of tumour tracker implant technology and insurance in Canada has provided you with the information that you need. However, it can prove challenging to find the right private insurance. We’re here to help.
You deserve the peace of mind that comes with having the right insurance, so let Insudinary help you get it. Contact our team today at 1(877) 574-RISK (7475) and see how easy it is to get started on finding the right coverage. Alternatively, please feel free to connect with us online for a free, no-obligation quote.