An Eight-Second Breast Cancer Scanner

Breast cancer is a type of cancer usually originating from the breast tissue. The occurrence of this cancer is common in human and mammals and though the majority of cases in humans are in women, breast cancer can also occur in men. Breast cancer accounts for 22.9% of all cancers in women. In 2008 alone breast cancer caused 458,503 deaths worldwide. Survival rate varies greatly depending on the cancer type, stage, treatment and geographic locality. Survival rates in developed countries tend to be higher as compared to developing countries.

Breast Screening

There are various methods of diagnosing breast cancer and most of them involve the screening procedure. The merits of screening versus its side effects are quite controversial. There are different type of screening procedures that include mammograms and magnetic resonance screening. But a unique development has been made in this regard. A breast imaging system has been developed from the land mine detection equipment. It is the first radar breast imaging system to revolutionize the breast cancer screening process. The imaging system known as MARIA (Multistatic Array processing for Radiowave Image Acquisition) was developed by a team at Bristol University. This prestigious team was led by Ian Craddock, a professor of electrical and electronic engineering, and Alan Preece, emeritus professor of medical physics.

MARIA

image courtesy: dailymail.co.uk

Key Aspects of Breast Scanner

The amazing aspect of MARIA lies in the fact that it takes only eight seconds to gather the images. Furthermore, Mammograms don’t work well with younger females because of the density of their breasts but in MARIA, the large aperture and wide bandwidth allow the collection of reflected and scattered signals from objects as small as 1.7mm. Another sound feature of this breast cancer scanner is that it collects images on the basis of transmitted radiowave signals and these signals have a peak power of less than 1mW and thus they don’t expose the skin to any harmful radiations. Hence, MARIA allows the patient to get repeatedly checked without any exposure to radiations. It’s completely safe, doesn’t cause pain, and is low cost, small and easily portable. Above all, unlike the mammogram, it doesn’t squeeze the breasts, so the vast majority of women would prefer it.

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image courtesy: micrima.com

The major challenge for the success of this technology was to collect clinical evidence and after validation through computational models, the researchers shifted to experimental validation using complex breast phantoms. MARIA has already scored 80% of diagnostic accuracy trails – already close to the level of mammograms – with an ultimate aim of more than 90% so that Bristol University’s company, Micrima, could take this to the next level.

Recently funding began for a Bristol Breast Care Center and the appeal for funds was supported by the Bristol Fashion Week. The new £430million Brunel building at Southmead Hospital Bristol is fully functional from today (Wednesday, May 28).

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