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New Breast Scanner Is The Size Of A Lunch Box

October 28, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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An engineering professor at the University of Manchester in England has invented a portable breast scanner the size of a lunch box that the university says can be used by general practitioners or even by consumers at home to detect tumors.

The scanner uses computer tomography and the same radio-frequency technology as a mobile phone to produce real-time video images. Instead of detecting differences in density, as mammography does, the radio-frequency scanner reads dielectric contrasts between normal and diseased breast tissues. According to a University of Manchester news release, “Malignant tissues have higher permittivity and conductivity and therefore appear differently than normal ones to a screen.”

Of the technology, the release says, “Not only is this a quicker and less-intrusive means of testing, it also means women can be tested at GP surgeries, which could help dramatically reduce waiting times and in some cases avoid unnecessary X-ray mammography.” Presumably, a radiologist would eventually read the resulting images. Or perhaps the university (or the writer of the release) is getting a little carried away with the possibilities of the new technology.

The release says the scanner could also be used at home for monitoring of breast health. If the woman sees any changes in the image, she could consult a doctor.

According to the release, the technology is particularly effective at imaging the breasts of younger women, who tend to have denser tissue that is harder to image with conventional mammography.

Zhipeng Wu, PhD, professor of antennas and propagation at the university’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, invented the scanner. “The system we have is portable, and as soon as you lie down, you can get a scan—it’s real time,” he said.

An image appears on the screen as soon as the breast enters the scanning cup, Dr. Wu said. “Other systems also need to use a liquid or gel as a matching substance, such as in an ultrasound, to work, but with our system you don’t need that,” he said. “It can be done simply in oil, milk, water, or even with a bra on.”

Related seminar: Breast Imaging and Digital Mammography

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