27 Oct 2010
Women could have a fast test for breast cancer and instantly identify the presence of a tumour in the comfort of their own home thanks to ground-breaking new research from The University of Manchester.
Professor Zhipeng Wu has invented a portable scanner based on radio frequency technology, which is able to show in a second the presence of tumours – malignant and benign – in the breast on a computer.
Using radio frequency or microwave technology for breast cancer detection has been proven by researchers in the US, Canada and UK.
However, up to now, it can take a few minutes for an image to be produced, and this had to be done in a hospital or specialist care centre.
Now Professor Wu, from the University’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, says concerned patients can receive real-time video images in using the radio frequency scanner which would clearly and simply show the presence of a tumour.
Not only is this a quicker and less-intrusive means of testing, it also means women can be tested at GP surgeries, which could help dramatically reduce waiting times and in some cases avoid unnecessary X-ray mammography. The scanner could also be used at home for continuous monitoring of breast health.
The patented real-time radio frequency scanner uses computer tomography and works by using the same technology as a mobile phone, but with only a tiny fraction of its power.
This makes it both safe and low-cost and the electronics can be housed in a case the size of a lunch box for compactness and portability. Other existing systems are much larger.
Breast cancer is the second biggest killer in women, accounting for 8.2% of all cancer deaths. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month.
The usual way of detecting breast cancer up to now is mammography, which works well for women over the age of 50 and can give results of up to 95% accuracy.
But it is far less effective for younger women. The detection rate could be as low as 60% for women under the age of 50, which accounts for 20% of all breast cancer cases.