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Photoacoustics Shows Promise For Identifying Breast Cancer

Researchers in The Netherlands are in the first stages of testing a new technology that may allow radiologists to detect and see breast tumors with improved accuracy without exposing patients to radiation.

Working with 12 patients with known malignancies, researchers at the University of Twente and Medisch Spectrum Twente Hospital in Oldenzaal, tested whether they could identify and see breast tumors through a technique called photoacoustics. Although the research, published in the open-access journal Optics Express, isn’t yet ready for clinical implementation, the findings are encouraging, according to some industry experts.

Photoacoustics is a hybrid optical and acoustical imaging technique that uses red and infrared light technology, known as optical mammography, to image tissue and detect tumors. This method can identify cancers because the blood hemoglobin feeding the tumors absorbs red wavelengths, exposing the contrast between tumors with increased blood vessel activity and normal areas of the breast.

“While we’re very early in the development of this new technology, it is promising,” said Michelle Heijblom, a researcher and PhD student at the University of Twente in Enschede, in a statement about the study. “Our hope is that these early results will one day lead to the development of a safe, comfortable, and accurate alternative or adjunct to conventional techniques for detecting breast tumors.”

However, targeting tumors with photoacoustics can be difficult. The limitedbandwidth of the photoacoustic detector can sometimes convey the wrong size or shape of a tumor. To overcome the hurdle, researchers paired the technique’s ability to differentiate between benign and malignant tissues with ultrasound and created the Twente Photoacoustic Mammoscope (PAM).

The device uses a 1,064-nanometer-wavelength laser to scan the breast, and the increased light absorption causes the malignant tumor’s temperature to rise. The result is a pressure wave. An ultrasound detector on the side of the breast picks up the wave and sends it to the PAM system for image reconstruction.

Read More at Diagnostic Imaging

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