Imaging technique can detect breast cancer in younger women

16 February 2012 Bristol University researchers are further developing a breast cancer screening device that can detect tumours in all women. Doctors currently rely on taking x-rays in order to identify tumours but this technique is not applicable to young…

16 February 2012

Bristol University researchers are further developing a breast cancer screening device that can detect tumours in all women.

Doctors currently rely on taking x-rays in order to identify tumours but this technique is not applicable to young women because their breast tissue is too dense.

The team at Bristol are developing a screening device that uses ultra wideband (UWB) radar rather than x-rays to pinpoint the location of a tumour. The technique works by sending short bursts of radio waves into the breast to detect anomalies and help produce an image.

The Bristol group have been attempting to advance the technology over the past few years and developed a prototype in 2008.

‘With the first prototype it was hard to keep the patient lying still…as a result you have some artefacts showing up on the image due to the patient’s movement,’ explained Tommy Henriksson, a research assistant at Bristol University. ‘The new prototype, which was developed at the start of 2011, takes only 10 seconds.’

This significant time reduction from 1.5 minutes was achieved largely through increasing the number of antennae (transmitters and receivers) from 31 to 61, which increased the number of measurements that could be taken.

The team hope to further develop their current prototype over the next three years by introducing a tomography algorithm into the device.

‘The radar can tell us the position of the tumour,’ said Henriksson. ’We are also planning to use tomography to reconstruct all the properties of the breast.’

The Bristol team has received £478,222 in funding from EPSRC and expects to finish the current phase of the research by February 2015.

If successful the new imaging technology could be deployed in doctors surgeries or mobile screening units, removing the need for hospital visits.