Hidden tumours can be detected in dense breasts
Recently, it has been noted that dense beast tissue is one of the major risk factors for developing breast cancer, and the density itself makes it more difficult to detect the cancer.
“Microwave technology would be better suited than traditional mammography to find tumours in women with so-called dense breasts”, says Andreas Fhager. “The images we present show a cross-section of the breast in many layers, and no tumour can be hidden behind other glandular tissue. Very small tumours can also be detected.”
The examination is performed while the patient is lying flat on the stomach on a bunk provided with an opening for the breast, which is lowered into a container with liquid underneath the bunk. In the container a number of narrow upright antennas are positioned, surrounding the breast. The antennas are both transmitters and receivers which in turn send faint microwave signals into the breast. The signals are refracted against the breast tissue and tumours, if any is present, and are then received by the antennas capturing the signal. Depending on whether the tissue is healthy or diseased, the microwaves are reflected in different ways. The pattern that the signals form is then analysed by advanced algorithms for image reconstruction.
“The images we get are rich in contrast, which makes it easier for medical staff to distinguish and assess fat tissue, mammary tissue and tumours,” says Andreas Fhager. “This allows cancer diagnoses to be made more efficiently and accurately.”