Tissue donations aiding breast cancer research

Breast tissue can be donated in about 20 minutes.
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INDIANAPOLIS - One way women can get involved with the Super Bowl "Super Cure" project is to donate breast tissue.

Melba Reidy, a 34-year-old mother of four from Zionsville brought Eyewitness News cameras along as she donated tissue from her breast for research at the Simon Cancer Center.

"I just wanted to give back," Reidy said.

It starts with a blood draw and consent process.

"You understand that you're doing this for the benefit of mankind, breast cancer research," said Dr. Susan Clare, co-director of the IU Komen Tissue Bank.

Reidy learned complications from the donation could include bleeding, bruising or, in rare cases, infection at the donation site.

"So I'm cleaning off the skin to get rid of the bacteria," Dr. Clare said.

There is then a shot to numb the area, which is on one side of the breast, close to the armpit.

"This should be the worst part of the whole procedure. This is the local anesthetic, I'll just inject it into skin first, to numb that up, then I'll numb the breast where we will take the specimen," Dr. Clare said.

The samples are retrieved with an instrument that includes a needle inserted inside a small incision.

"I need a big instrument like this, so I can do it with one hand," Dr. Clare said. "You will hear some noise with this and that's part of it. It kind of sounds like a roto-rooter. That's just the way it is."

The specimens are removed from the base of the retrieval instrument.

"It doesn't change the shape, it doesn't change the appearance, with the exception of a very small scar a few millimeters long, where we have to make an incision to put the needle in and out, but it's very small and it scars down very nicely," Dr. Clare said.

The specimens - or "cores" - are taken to the lab, where they are sorted and put into vials, then transported on ice. Eventually, Melba's samples will be stored in liquid nitrogen at minus-190 degrees Celsius, waiting for a researcher's request.

"I can tell you where it's already gone. It's gone to Harvard, it's gone to Einstein, it's gone to Purdue, it's gone to the Mayo Clinic, it's gone to the Royal Marsden in London, it's gone to Queensland, Australia," said Dr. Clare.

Before leaving, Reidy is given an ice pack to insert in her undergarments. The whole process takes about 20 minutes.

"It doesn't hurt at all. I think the worst part is the numbing, or the initial stick, and then they go in and take about 3-4 specimens or cores and it didn't hurt at all. It was painless and easy," she said.

The donation appointments for this Saturday are full, but you can get on the list for the next donation the last weekend of January. You can also text "CURE" to 27722 to donate $10 to the Komen Tissue Bank.

Komen Tissue Bank