Women's health * Healthy living

Land mine technology used to detect breast cancer

breast cancer It takes just eight seconds

British scientists have used anti-landmine technology to develop a new breast cancer screening system that can detect signs of disease in just eight seconds.

The system, called MARIA, is safer, faster and more comfortable than mammography, the current method used to screen women in the UK, the scientists said.

The new breast screening system can be used on women of any age, and would allow them to be screened at their own GP's surgeries. The researchers behind MARIA say they hope to make breast cancer scans "as normal as a dental or eye check-up."

The MARIA technology is based on a radar system initially developed to detect non-metallic land mines, and uses radiowaves to create a 3D scan of the breast in seconds.

The system was developed by Microma, a company that began at Bristol University.

In the UK, women over the age of 50 are invited for breast cancer screening every three years, using mammography, which uses low dose X-rays. Although not painful, mammography can be uncomfortable as the women's breast is squeezed between two X-ray plates. The new method involves women aligning their breast into a ceramic cup, so the breast does not need to be compressed.

X-ray mammography also works less well in denser breast tissue, more common in younger women and those who have not been through the menopause.

When used in a trial on women with breast cancer, the new system detected around 80 per cent of tumours, a success rate close to that of mammography, said the scientists, who are aiming for a success rate of 90 per cent.

The latest phase of the clinical trial involved women at Frenchay Hospital’s Breast Care Centre in Bristol, as well as Southmead Hospital, also in Bristol.

Dr Mike Shere, breast specialist at Southmead Hospital, said: "We are very excited about the potential of this completely new method of breast imaging.

"It has none of the disadvantages of the current methods, ultrasound, mammography and MRI. It is quick, safe, comfortable and cheap, and is already producing good images with high sensitivity."

The company is now in the process of raising funds to develop the technology further.

This article was published on Fri 2 December 2011



Image © Arto - Fotolia.com


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