Breast cancer is highly treatable when detected early, with a survival rate of nearly 100 percent. However, the survival rate drops drastically to about 25 percent when tumors are detected in later stages. To improve the chances of early detection and survival for breast cancer patients, researchers at MIT have developed an innovative wearable ultrasound device.
This device is designed as a flexible patch that can be attached to a bra, making it convenient for people to use regularly and detect tumors at an early stage. It could be especially beneficial for individuals at high risk of developing breast cancer between their routine mammograms.
The portable ultrasound tracker on the patch allows the wearer to image the breast tissue from various angles. The researchers demonstrated that the ultrasound images obtained with this device are of comparable resolution to those obtained using medical imaging centers.
The lead author of the study, Canan Dagdeviren, was inspired by her late aunt’s battle with breast cancer. Her aunt was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer despite regular cancer screenings and sadly passed away within six months. In response, Dagdeviren envisioned a diagnostic device that could be integrated into a bra, enabling more frequent screening for women at high risk.
Breast tumors that develop between scheduled mammograms, known as interval cancers, make up a significant portion of breast cancer cases and tend to be more aggressive. By providing more frequent screening for high-risk individuals, the researchers aim to increase the overall survival rate to as high as 98 percent.
To turn this vision into reality, Dagdeviren designed a miniaturized ultrasound scanner based on the technology used in medical imaging centers. However, she incorporated a novel piezoelectric material that allowed them to shrink the ultrasound scanner while maintaining its efficiency.
The goal of this innovative wearable ultrasound device is to empower individuals to take control of their health and improve the early detection of breast cancer, potentially saving lives and increasing survival rates.