A new portable breast scanner that could soon allow women to undergo breast screening in their home, has been invented. The device which was made by Professor Zhipeng Wu, of Manchester University uses radio waves (similar to a microwave oven) to scan tissues for suspicious lumps. The scanner, which is shaped like a cup, has sensors around it that can take up to 30 images from different angles every second, and flags up tumours as red dots, on an attached screen.
Furthermore, the scanners, which are small enough to fit inside a lunch box, do not require the use of liquid gel (as in ultrasound) and can be done in oil, milk, water or fitted over the bra. In addition, the device is said to have a high accuracy rate for Women under 50, which is considerably better when compared to the traditional mammography. They also provide real-time imaging which reduces the chances of missing a breast tumour during scanning.
Although there is still more research to be done before the device can be released into the market, the early signs are positive. Professor Wu hopes that, if successful, the portable scanners would eventually be used at home in order to allow Women at risk, to continuously monitor their health thereby reducing hospital waiting lists. However, because the scanner cannot distinguish between cancerous and benign tumours, patients will still have to be referred for further tests if lumps are discovered. For now, the most effective screening tool for detecting cancer still remains mammography.
What are the potential benefits of a portable do-it-yourself breast scanner? Do you think the device will be widely accepted considering its potential benefits particularly to people in developing countries?