Breast Cancer Detection In The Blink Of An Eye
Breast cancer is the second biggest killer in women, accounting for 8.2% of all cancer deaths. About one in eight women will develop breast cancer sometime in their life, so it is vital to have regular screenings with quick results because the sooner the cancer is found the easier it can be treated. Professor Zhipeng Wu has invented a portable scanner that allows people to know immediately if there is a tumor present.
The portable scanner is based on radio frequency technology. Using radio frequency or microwave technology for breast cancer detection has been proven by researchers in the US, Canada and UK. However, up to now, it can take a few minutes for an image to be produced, and this had to be done in a hospital or specialist care center.
Professor Wu, from the University of Manchester’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, says concerned patients can receive real-time video images in using the radio frequency scanner, which would clearly and simply show the presence of a tumor.
This means of testing is not only quicker and less intrusive, but women can be tested at GP surgeries, which could help dramatically reduce waiting times and in some cases avoid unnecessary X-ray mammography. The scanner could even be used at home.
The patented real-time radio frequent scanner uses computer tomography and works by using the same technology as a mobile phone, but with only a fraction of its power. This makes it both safe and low-cost. The electronics are kept in a case the size of a lunch box for portability and storage. Other systems of this sort are much larger and inconvenient.
The usual way to detecting breast cancer, until now, is mammography, which works well for women over the age of 50 and gives results up to 95 percent accuracy. It is far less effective for younger women, which account for 20 percent of breast cancer cases. The detection rate could be as low as 60 percent.
In Professor Wu's design, as soon as the breast enters the cup an image appears on screen. The presence of a tumor or other abnormality will show up in red as the sensor detects the difference in tissue contrasts at radio frequencies. Malignant tissues have higher permittivity and conductivity and therefore appear differently than normal ones to a screen.
"The system we have is portable and as soon as you lie down you can get a scan – it's real-time. The real-time imaging minimises the chance of missing a breast tumor during scanning. 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 – it can be done simply in oil, milk, water or even with a bra on,” professor Wu was quoted as saying.
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SOURCE: University of Manchester, October 27, 2010