Microwaves May Provide Early Detection Of Breast Cancer

jection of a complex three-dimensional array of tissues onto a two-dimensional film surface. This makes X-ray results difficult to interpret."

Yet despite X-ray mammography's drawbacks, it is proven to save lives. The American Cancer Society recommends yearly screening mammograms for women over 40. The ACS projects breast cancer to strike 178,800 women in the U.S. this year and cause 43,500 deaths. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

It is vital that women not put off starting or continuing their regular screening mammograms while new technologies are in long-term development. Taflove, Bridges and Hagness all stressed this point.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, of the 80 million women in the U.S. who are recommended for screening, only 23 million undergo an annual mammogram. "Noncompliance may be due in part to women's concerns about the small risks of X-ray exposure and the discomfort of the breast compression required by mammography," Hagness said.

Microwave imaging would eliminate both concerns. "We expect the microwave sensor to use only a few milliwatts of power -- less than one one-hundredth of the power of a typical cellular phone," Bridges said. "Further, the duration of microwave exposure during the breast scan will be shorter than many phone calls and much, much less frequent."

The discomfort of X-ray mammography will also be eliminated, Hagness said. "Instead of compressing the breast between two plates, the microwave antenna array will gently rest flat against the breast much as a book would if you were lying in bed."

Data from microwave imaging will be inherently digital, with no film to develop or scan. "After signal processing, the operator will see a three-dimensional image of the breast that can be rotated," Taflove said. "It will be captured digitally on a hard disk and could be sent to a radiologist over the Internet."

Interstitial was awarded two U.S. patents this year on the new breast tumor

Contact: Bill Burton
Northwestern University

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