MIT Researchers Develop Wearable Ultrasound Scanner That Could Detect Breast Cancer Earlier

MIT Researchers Develop Wearable Ultrasound Scanner That Could Detect Breast Cancer Earlier

Knowing you’re at high risk of breast cancer can be daunting, but a new wearable device aims to put people in this situation more at ease.

A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has created a wearable ultrasound scanner that can be comfortably incorporated into a bra. They detailed how it works in a paper recently published in Science Advances. The device, which has technology that can produce ultrasound images of a similar resolution to ultrasound probes in health care facilities, is inside a small tracker that can be repositioned in six different ways to obtain full imaging of the breast.

The hope is that it could be particularly helpful for catching tumors that pop up between mammograms, called interval cancers. They tend to be more aggressive than those caught during regular screening.

Canan Dagdeviren, associate professor in MIT’s Media Lab and the study’s senior author, says, “My goal is to target the people who are most likely to develop interval cancer. With more frequent screening, our goal to increase the survival rate to up to 98 percent.”

Using a flexible, 3D-printed patch with openings, the device can be attached to a bra with openings, allowing it to touch skin. No expertise is needed to operate it. It was tested on a 71-year-old woman with a history of breast cysts. The device allowed researchers to detect the cysts, some as small as 0.3 centimeters in diameter. That’s the size of early-stage breast cancer tumors. The device was also able to image tissue up to eight centimeters deep.

Currently, images can only be seen when the scanner is connected to the type of ultrasound machines used in health care facilities. A smartphone-sized version of the imaging system is currently in the works, though.

There is hope that the device may help tackle some issues related to healthcare access, as well.

Tolga Ozmen, breast cancer surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital and study co-author, says, “Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, and it is treatable when detected early. One of the main obstacles in imaging and early detection is the commute that the women have to make to an imaging center. This conformable ultrasound patch is a highly promising technology as it eliminates the need for women to travel to an imaging center.”

In order to put the device to use, the goal is to develop a workflow that will have artificial intelligence analyze changes in the images over time. If it proves successful, the team says it could also be adapted for other parts of the body.

Michelle Milliken

Michelle has a journalism degree and has spent more than seven years working in broadcast news. She's also been known to write some silly stuff for humor websites. When she's not writing, she's probably getting lost in nature, with a fully-stocked backpack, of course.

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