Phase-insensitive Ultrasonic Computed Tomography (piUCT) for the diagnosis of breast disease


Annually, 49,500 UK women are diagnosed with breast cancer. However, 92,000 unnecessary biopsies are performed as only about 30% of suspicious lesions are found to be malignant. As each suspicious lesion must be confirmed by biopsy, better diagnosis would avoid unnecessary biopsy procedures, improve care and reduce cost to the NHS. The gold standard of triple assessment (clinical examination, X-ray mammography and biopsy) can be successful in women over 45 years of age. However, it can also miss up to 10 % of cancers in women under 35. A more sensitive and specific diagnostic method for younger women is needed. This is growing in importance as the number of women under 50 diagnosed with breast cancer is increasing and now stands at 1 in 5. There is also a need to monitor the progress of patients undergoing chemotherapy, which requires multiple scans. For this, X-ray mammography cannot be used as repetitive exposure can cause cancer. An alternative scanning tool is ultrasound imaging. We have developed a completely new kind of ultrasound detector that works by detecting small amounts of heat generated through absorption of ultrasound waves. We have demonstrated the potential of the new detector to generate images of improved quality, relative to conventional devices. This is an example of innovation in science and engineering opening up pathways for new clinical capabilities. The detector will be targetted at 3D whole breast scanning. We will improve current detection technology and develop a whole-breast ultrasound demonstrator system and, in a small clinical trial, we will test its ability detect lesions in women known to be suffering from breast cancer.

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National Physical Laboratory Limited, London, United Kingdom


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