'Electronic skin' could boost manual breast cancer exams
Article date: 11 September 2014
Manual breast cancer screening could prove to be more accurate than other alternatives like MRI and ultrasound in the future, thanks to the development of a new 'electronic skin'.
Scientists in the US are in the process of fine-tuning the technology, which will be able to detect lumps that the fingers of a physician can miss. Not only that, but it's hoped the innovation will also give doctors the exact dimensions of the lump - allowing for an earlier possible diagnosis of the disease.
So far, the device has been tested on a silicone breast model, with encouraging results - and the findings of the initial test period have since been published in the ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces journal.
Current tech-based methods for screening - like the aforementioned MRI - are also sensitive, however, one of the main drawbacks here is the cost of procedures. Meanwhile, mammography itself can return imperfect results, especially when the patient is a young woman or an individual with dense breast tissue.
The manual tests, on the other hand, are less expensive but tend to not be able to detect lumps until they are approximately 21 millimeters long, which means a patient's survival rate is already affected by the fact it has been allowed to develop.
While there are already devices out there that can replicate the results of a manual exam, image quality is often poor, while the shape of the lump itself can be difficult to determine.
In contrast, the 'skin' was able to detect lumps in the silicone model that were as small as five millimeters and as deep as 20 millimeters. The developers - Ravi Saraf and Chieu Van Nguyen - also hope the technology can be used for the earlier diagnosis of melanoma and similar forms of cancer.
According to official sources, approximately 48,000 women in the UK get breast cancer every year.