MIT scientists have designed a wearable ultrasound scanner that can detect breast cancer at an early stage. The flexible patch with integrated scanner is designed to provide early cancer detection for high-risk patients between routine mammograms.
As researcher Canan Dagdeviren explains, the survival rate for early-stage breast cancer is nearly 100 percent. However, for tumors detected later, it drops to about 25 percent. The new scanner should help find more tumors at a curable stage.
The patch with the mini ultrasound scanner can be integrated into a bra. This allows the wearer to move the scanner across the breast and image the tissue from different angles. Tests showed comparable resolution to conventional ultrasound devices.
According to Dagdeviren, the technology enables easy-to-use and real-time breast monitoring. The goal, she says, is to screen particularly at-risk patients more closely between mammography appointments, increasing the chances of survival.
The starting point was an aunt of the researcher who developed breast cancer late in life despite regular checkups. By miniaturizing ultrasound technology, the scanner was made portable. It is integrated into a flexible 3D-printed patch that can be attached to a bra with magnets.
In tests with test subjects, even cysts as small as 0.3 centimeters could be detected – the size of early tumors. According to the scientists, the device is easy to use and does not require extra calibration. In the long term, a compact and inexpensive version is planned so that women can also screen themselves at home.
The ultrasound scanner is thus expected to revolutionize breast cancer screening. Early detection is the key to a positive prognosis. Further details can be found in the scientific paper “Conformable ultrasound breast patch for deep tissue scanning and imaging“.