Wearable ultrasound to detect early breast cancer

MIT’s Canan Dagdeviren has developed a flexible ultrasound patch that can be attached to a bra, obtaining ultrasound images with resolution comparable to medical imaging centers, and used repeatedly.

Interval cancers, which develop between regularly scheduled mammograms, account for 20 – 30 percent of all breast cancers, and tend to be more aggressive. The goal is to frequently screen those most likely to develop interval cancers.

According to Dagdeviren: “We changed the form factor of the ultrasound technology so that it can be used in your home. It’s portable and easy to use, and provides real-time, user-friendly monitoring of breast tissue.”

Piezoelectric material allowed the scanner to be minimized, in a flexible, 3D-printed patch, with honeycomb shaped openings. Using magnets, it is attached to a bra with openings that allow the it to contact the skin. The scanner fits inside a small tracker, with six different positions, allowing the entire breast to be imaged. IT also rotates, to take images from different angles.

The device was able to detect .3cm diameter cysts in a 71-year-old woman, with a resolution comparable to that of traditional ultrasound. Tissue was imaged at a depth up to 8 centimeters.

To see the images, the scanner must connect to an ultrasound machine, like those used in imaging centers. The team is now working on a miniaturized imaging system.

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