Early warning

A breast imaging system developed at Bristol University is undergoing trials at the North Bristol NHS Trust.


A breast imaging system developed at Bristol University is undergoing trials at the North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT).



The device has been in development for a number of years and uses radio waves to eliminate radiation risk and improve early detection of cancer.



Similar to conventional radar systems, the technology works by transmitting low energy radio waves and detecting reflected signals. A 3D image is then created by taking four hundred quarter of a second pictures through receivers that are arranged around a ceramic cup, that holds the breast.



So far 60 women have been examined using the system. The entire process is said to take six minutes compared with 30 to 45 minutes for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).



Researchers claim that the procedure increases comfort and safety with the amount of radiation received during the process equal to using a mobile phone at arms length.



The technology has received support from organisations including the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the trustees of the United Bristol Hospitals and Bristol University spin-out company, Micrima.



Roy Johnson, chief executive of Micrima, said: ‘This technology will ultimately only benefit the patient if it can be successfully commercialised. This new invention could provide a safe, more comfortable experience for women as well as giving clinicians a better image of the breast allowing them to pick up abnormalities at an earlier stage. We particularly hope that it may work well in younger women who can pose a problem to conventional mammography.’



In the coming months, the team expect to trial the system’s detection capabilities against conventional mammograms. They also hope to continue trials for the next 12 months and develop two additional prototypes for use in hospitals around the UK.