Revolutionizing the Future of Mammogram. Each year, millions of women undergo mammograms for early detection of possible breast cancer. Needless to say the disease has reached epidemic proportions thus creating global concern for timely diagnosis and proper treatment.
It’s an unpleasant procedure that uses X-rays. Researchers at TU Eindhoven are working on a ‘breast-friendly’ method, without radiation, that is more accurate and generates 3D rather than 2D images.
In a standard screening procedure, the breast is squeezed tightly between two plates in order to produce one or more good X-ray photos. The method is not without risk; the X-rays used can contribute to cancer. It is often unclear whether the anomaly found is malignant lesion or benign. More than two-thirds of concerning cases is a false-positive on X-ray photos, after biopsies they are not found to be cancerous.
A more potent method that promises an efficient diagnosis, more importantly, promotes and invites women for early testing becomes a necessity under such circumstances. Thus seeking alternatives, researchers at TU Eindhoven are now focusing towards a new technology in which the patient lies on a table and the breast hangs freely in a bowl. Using special echography (inaudible sound waves) a 3D image is made of the breast. Any cancer is clearly identifiable on the generated images; researchers, therefore, expecting fewer false-positive results.
The new technology builds on the patient-friendly prostate cancer detection method developed at TU/e where the doctor injects the patient with harmless microbubbles. An echoscanner monitors these bubbles as they flow through the blood vessels of the prostate. This method works well for the prostate and is now being tested in hospitals in the Netherlands, China and, soon, Germany. The method is not yet suitable for breast cancer because the breast shows excessive movement and size for accurate imaging by standard echography.
Researchers Libertario Demi, Ruud van Sloun and Massimo Mischi have developed a variant of the echography method suitable for breast investigation called Dynamic Contrast Specific Ultrasound Tomography. This method has proven to be more effective on organs such as the breast. An international medical team has been assembled to start performing preclinical studies. Application in practice is certainly ten or so years away, Mischi expects. Moreover, he forecasts that the technology that has been developed will probably not operate on a standalone basis but in combination with other methods, which will create a better visualization. One of the candidates for this elastography, a variant of echography whereby the difference in the rigidity of the tumor and healthy tissue can be used to detect cancer.
Breast cancer affects millions every year and early detection of any form of cancer has proven to have a higher success rate of full recovery. I personally have not been tested yet but women in my family are no strangers to the procedure of a discomforting mammogram. Due to close affiliation with loved ones who have been exposed to this painful experience, I can tell that an easier method will definitely prove to be a relief among all women.
The ‘breast-friendly’ approach endorses the initiative to be a great one that will persuade younger women for annual breast exams and mammograms, making this a mandatory part of a standard health check-up routine. We should facilitate further research in this area in any way we can to help mammograms become a comfortable procedure for women everywhere.