Study: Wearable ultrasound scanner could detect breast cancer earlier


Study: Wearable ultrasound scanner could detect breast cancer earlier

In hopes of improving the survival rate for breast cancer patients, MIT researchers designed a wearable ultrasound device that could allow women to detect tumors in early stages. Photo by Canan Dagdeviren

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said Friday they have developed a wearable ultrasound tracker that could detect breast cancer at its early stages, giving it the potential to save lives.

Details about the development and testing of the flexible patch at the Cambridge, Mass., university were published in the peer-review journal Science Advances.

Scientists said the device is a flexible patch that can be attached to a bra, allowing the wearer to move an ultrasound tracker along the patch and image the breast tissue from different angles.

They said the device would allow physicians to obtain ultrasound images with resolution comparable to ultrasound probes used in medical imaging centers.

“We changed the form factor of the ultrasound technology so that it can be used in your home,” Canan Dagdeviren, an associate professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab and the senior author of the study, said in a news release.

“It’s portable and easy to use, and provides real-time, user-friendly monitoring of breast tissue,” she said.

Dagdeviren said she was inspired to create the device by her aunt, who died at age 49 of breast cancer, which was not found until its late stages, even though she received regular exams. She said at her bedside she drew a rough diagram that would become the one being tested.

The researchers designed a 3D-printed patch with honeycomb-like openings containing magnets, allowing the patch to be attached to bras. The openings allow the ultrasound scanner to contact the skin and be moved into different positions.

“My goal is to target the people who are most likely to develop interval cancer,” Dagdeviren said. “With more frequent screening, our goal to increase the survival rate to up to 98%.”

Breast tumors that develop between regularly scheduled mammograms are known as interval cancers. They account for 20% to 30% of all breast cancer cases, and tend to be more aggressive than tumors found during routine scans, MIT said.

With the flexible patch, Dagdeviren designed a miniaturized ultrasound scanner that could allow the user to perform imaging at any time. It incorporates a novel piezoelectric material that allowed the researchers to miniaturize the ultrasound scanner.

Researchers said the device would also allow for more frequent screening of women at high risk for breast cancer.

“Access to quality and affordable healthcare is essential for early detection and diagnosis,” Catherine Ricciardi, nurse director at MIT’s Center for Clinical and Translational Research and an author of the study, said in the release.

“As a nurse, I have witnessed the negative outcomes of a delayed diagnosis. This technology holds the promise of breaking down the many barriers for early breast cancer detection by providing a more reliable, comfortable and less intimidating diagnostic.”

MIT researchers said they also plan to explore adapting the ultrasound technology to scan other parts of the body.


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