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Wearable Scanner Would Detect Breast Tumors

July 3, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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The latest idea for an adjunct breast cancer screening system to complement mammography involves a “scanner” that patients would wear.

Researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) are developing what a news release calls a “wearable, brassiere-like imaging system that uses nonionizing radiation to detect cancerous breast tissue.”

The new system is microwave-based. The device uses “a planar microstrip antenna design on a flexible substrate that is optimized for operation in direct contact with the skin.” Direct contact is important. If the antenna is not touching the skin, there’s a 20 percent loss in microwave signal strength, according to the researchers.

The researchers describe the device in an upcoming article in the International Journal of Computer Aided Engineering and Technology. The article was accepted for publication in February, but is still listed as “forthcoming” on the journal’s Web site.

The system was developed at the IUPUI Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute. It’s envisioned as a supplement to mammography, though the researchers say it “holds the promise of much earlier detection than mammography.”

Tests with breast and tumor phantoms have shown that the received microwave signal from a tumor is three times that of a signal from healthy tissue and that it’s well defined relative to background noise. The researchers say the system should work even with dense breast tissue.

Testing apparently isn’t ready to move to a clinical level. The researchers are working on software to convert the microwave signals to two- and three-dimensional images.

So the system is still at a fairly early stage. But a wearable imaging device that promises early detection of breast cancer even in dense tissue with minimal discomfort and no ionizing radiation certainly is worth keeping an eye on.

Related seminar: Breast & Women’s Imaging Seminar

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