New device allows women to scan for breast cancer at home

28 Jul 2023

Image: MIT

Senior author and MIT professor Canan Dagdeviren said that the device will aim to increase the survival rate of interval cancer to up to 98pc.

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new wearable device that can help women perform ultrasound scans for breast cancer detection from the comfort of their homes.

Aimed at patients who are at a high risk of developing breast cancer in between routine mammograms, the device is designed as a flexible patch that can be attached to a bra, allowing patients to move an ultrasound tracker along the patch and image the breast tissue from different angles.

Breast cancer is one of the world’s most prevalent forms of cancer that almost exclusively affects women. Around 2.3m women were diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide as of 2020, according to the World Health Organisation, with an estimated 685,000 deaths.

And while the survival rate for breast cancer when detected in its early stages is nearly 100pc, that rate drops to around 25pc when tumours are detected in later stages.

Tumours that develop in between regularly scheduled mammograms, known as interval cancers, account for up to 30pc of all breast cancer cases. What’s more, these tumours tend to be more aggressive than those found during routine scans.

“We changed the form factor of the ultrasound technology so that it can be used in your home. It’s portable, easy to use, and provides real-time, user-friendly monitoring of breast tissue,” said Canan Dagdeviren, an associate professor at the MIT Media Lab and senior author of the study.

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

The study has been published in the journal Science Advances today (28 July). Other lead authors of the paper include Wenya Du, Lin Zhang, Emma Suh and Dabin Lin.

To make the device wearable, the researchers designed a flexible, 3D-printed patch with honeycomb-like openings. It can be attached with magnets with a bra that has openings for the ultrasound scanner to make contact with skin and move to six different positions for imaging.

“This technology provides a fundamental capability in the detection and early diagnosis of breast cancer, which is key to a positive outcome,” said Anantha Chandrakasan, a professor and dean of the MIT School of Engineering and one of the authors of the study.

“This work will significantly advance ultrasound research and medical device designs, leveraging advances in materials, low-power circuits, AI algorithms and biomedical systems.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic