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Screening for breast cancer without X-rays: Lasers and sound merge in promising diagnostic technique
Date:5/7/2012

oving this, the researchers combined the light-based system's ability to distinguish between benign and malignant tissue with ultrasound to achieve superior targeting ability. The result of their refinements is a specialized instrument, the Twente Photoacoustic Mammoscope (PAM), which was first tested in 2007.

The device is built into a hospital bed, where the patient lies prone and positions her breast for imaging. Laser light at a wavelength of 1,064 nanometers scans the breast. Because there is increased absorption of the light in malignant tissue the temperature slightly increases. With the rise in temperature, thermal expansion creates a pressure wave, which is detected by an ultrasound detector placed on one side of the breast. The resulting photoacoustic signals are then processed by the PAM system and reconstructed into images. These images reveal abnormal areas of high intensity (tumor tissue) as compared to areas of low intensity (benign tissue). This is one of the first times that the technique has been tested on breast cancer patients.

By comparing the photoacoustic data with conventional diagnostic X-rays, ultrasound imaging, MRI, and tissue exams, the researchers showed that malignancies produced a distinct photoacoustic signal that is potentially clinically useful for making a diagnosis of breast cancer. The team also observed that the photoacoustic contrast of the malignant tissue is higher than the contrast provided by the conventional X-ray mammographies.

In looking to the future, notes Heijblom, "PAM needs some technical improvements before it is a really valuable clinical tool for diagnosis or treatment of breast cancer. Our next step is to make those improvements and then evaluate less obvious potential tumors, benign lesions, and normal breasts with it."


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Contact: Sarah Cogan
scogan@osa.org
202-416-1409
Optical Society of America
Source:Eurekalert  

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Screening for breast cancer without X-rays: Lasers and sound merge in promising diagnostic technique
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