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New screening technique could help detect breast cancer more 'reliably'

Washington, Sat, 03 Mar 2012 ANI

Washington, Mar 3 (ANI): Scientists have come up with a potentially more reliable technique for screening breast cancer using ultrasound.

 

The team at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the UK's National Measurement Institute, working with the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, are now looking to develop the technique into a clinical device.

 

There is a compelling need to develop improved, ideally non-ionising, methods of detecting breast lesions and solid masses. Improved diagnosis would reduce unnecessary biopsies and consequent patient trauma from being wrongly diagnosed.

 

Ultrasound ticks many of the boxes: it is safe, low cost, and already extensively used in trusted applications such as foetal scanning. However the quality of the images is not yet good enough for reliable diagnoses.

 

Part of the problem lies with the current detectors used. Different biological tissues have different sound speeds, and this affects the time taken for sound waves to arrive at the detector.

 

This can distort the arriving waves, in extreme cases causing cancellation them to cancel each other out. This results in imaging errors, such as suggesting abnormal inclusions where there may be none.

 

The new method works by detecting the intensity of ultrasonic waves. Intensity is converted to heat that is then sensed by a thin membrane of pyroelectric film, which generates a voltage output dependant on the temperature rise.

 

Imaging detectors based on this new principle should be much less susceptible to the effects caused by the uneven sound speed in tissues.

 

This technique, when used in a Computed Tomography (CT) configuration, should produce more accurate images of tissue properties and so provide better identification of breast tissue abnormalities.

 

The aim of tomography is to produce a cross-section map of the tissue, which describes how the acoustic properties vary across the tissue. Using this map, it is possible to identify abnormal inclusions.

 

An initial feasibility project has proved the concept by testing single detectors using purpose-built artefacts. These artefacts were designed to include well-defined structures, enabling the new imaging method to be compared with more conventional techniques.

 

The results confirmed that the new detectors generated more reliable maps of the internal structure of the artefacts than existing techniques.

 

"Our initial results are very promising. Whilst it's early days, we're very excited about its potential and with the right funding, support and industry partners, we may well have something here which could have a huge and positive impact on cancer diagnosis and the lives of many thousands of women," Dr Bajram Zeqiri, who leads the project at the National Physical Laboratory, said. (ANI)

 


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