A simple and cost effective imaging device for breast tumor detection based on a flexible and wearable antenna system has been developed by Indian origin researchers at the Indiana University.
The team based in the Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute (INDI) pointed out that their system holds the promise of much earlier detection than mammography.
INDI's Kody Varahramyan and colleagues, Sudhir Shrestha, Mangilal Agarwal, Azadeh Hemati and Parvin Ghane explained that their system uses a planar microstrip antenna design on a flexible substrate that is optimised for operation in direct contact with the skin.
The system avoids the 20 percent microwave signal loss observed with other systems based on matched coupling medium.
Their tests with breast and tumor "phantoms" - model human body systems - showed that the received signal from a tumor is three times the strength from healthy tissue and is well defined relative to background noise level in the image.
The overall goal of the research is to develop a wearable, brassiere-like imaging system that uses non-ionizing radiation to detect cancerous breast tissue.
The researchers suggested that the system is cost effective and could detect breast cancer earlier than other systems, although they added that it would be a complementary system to mammography rather than a replacement for it. Nevertheless for early detection with minimal discomfort to the patients, such a system could become a useful adjunct for cancer detection.
"It has been well recognized that the early detection of breast cancer by regular breast screening increases the survival rate among the breast cancer patients," the team said.
Unfortunately, conventional mammography, which utilizes ionizing radiation, has a relatively high rate of false positives and false negatives as well as being uncomfortable. As such, the results for early breast tumors are often obscured by dense breast tissue and ambiguities present near the chest wall, which commonly leads to unnecessary biopsies.
The team is currently working on the software that will allow them to convert the microwave signals from the system into two-dimensional and three-dimensional images of breast tumors.
The development has been described in detail in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Computer Aided Engineering and Technology.