In a recent breakthrough invention, a portable scanner has been created to detect the presence of breast tumors in the blink of an eye.
Professor Zhipeng Wu from University of Manchester has invented a portable scanner based on radio
frequency technology, which is able to detect the presence of breast tumors
(malignant and benign) in a second on a computer.
Researchers have already
proven the use of radio frequency or microwave technology for the breast cancer
However, up till now it had taken a few minutes for an image to
be produced. Also, this had to be done in a specialist care centre or hospital
Professor Wu from the
University's School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering says that now
concerned patients can receive a real-time video image by using the radio
frequency scanner and it would clearly show the presence of a tumor in and
around the breast tissue.
He further added, "Not only is
this a less-intrusive and quicker way of testing, it also means patients can be
tested at GP surgeries, which could help in reducing the waiting time
dramatically and in some cases even avoid unnecessary mammography. The best
part is that this scanner could also be used at even at home for a continuous
monitoring of breast health."The recently patented
real-time radio frequency scanner utilizes computer tomography and works on the
principles of the similar technology as is used in mobile phones.
surprisingly it uses only a tiny fraction of its power. This makes it safer and
low-cost as well. As compared with other such diagnostic systems, which are
much larger to this, it is only a size of a lunch box!!
So far the usual way of detecting
breast cancer has been primarily through a mammography, which works well for
women over the age of 50 and can give results of up to 95% accuracy. But sadly
it is far less effective for younger women. For women under the age of 50
(which accounts for 20% of all breast cancer cases), the detection rate could
be as low as 60%.
The major difference between the
two methods is that radio frequency technique works on dielectric contrasts
between normal and diseased breast tissues while the mammography works solely
The presence of a tumor or any
other abnormality will exhibit in "red" as the sensor detects
difference in tissue contrasts at radio frequencies. Malignant tissues have
higher conductivity and permittivity; therefore appear differently than normal
ones on a screen. In Professor Wu's design, an image appears on screen as soon
as the breast enters the cup. Up to 30 images are generated every second, which
means a breast scan could be over and done in a much shorter time than they
Professor Wu further says while
elaborating about the device that, "The system we have is portable and
as soon as you lie down you can get a scan - it's actually real-time. The
real-time imaging also minimizes the chance of missing out on a small breast
tumor during scanning".
In terms of functionality and
easy usage he says, "Other systems need to use a liquid or gel as a
matching substance (as in an ultrasound) to work but with our system it is not
needed. It can even be done with any oil, milk, water and even with a bra on".
As a concluding note he adds,"The system has great potential to bring a new way for breast cancer
diagnosis, although there is still research to be done. This will benefit
millions of women in both developed and developing countries bearing in mind
that one in nine women may develop breast cancer in their lifetime."