Team develops wearable antenna for tumour detection

An imaging device for breast tumour detection based on a flexible and wearable antenna system has been developed by researchers at Indiana University — Purdue University Indianapolis.

The team, based in the Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute (INDI), describes details in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Computer Aided Engineering and Technology and says that its system holds the promise of much earlier detection than mammography.

INDI’s Kody Varahramyan and colleagues, Sudhir Shrestha, Mangilal Agarwal, Azadeh Hemati and Parvin Ghane, said in a statement that their system uses a planar microstrip antenna design on a flexible substrate that is optimised for operation in direct contact with the skin.

The system is said to avoid the 20 per cent microwave signal loss observed with other systems based on matched coupling medium.

Their tests with breast and tumour ‘phantoms’ — model human body systems — shows that the received signal from a tumour is three times the strength from healthy tissue and is well defined relative to background noise level in the image.

The overall goal of the research is to develop a wearable, brassiere-like imaging system that uses non-ionising radiation to detect cancerous breast tissue.

The researchers suggest that the system is cost-effective and could detect breast cancer earlier than other systems, although they add that it would be a complementary system to mammography rather than a replacement for it.

Nevertheless, for early detection with minimal discomfort to the patients, such a system could become a useful adjunct for cancer detection.

‘It has been well recognised that the early detection of breast cancer by regular breast screening increases the survival rate among the breast cancer patients, the team said.

Conventional mammography, which utilises ionising radiation, has a relatively high rate of false positives and false negatives, as well as being uncomfortable. As such, the results for early breast tumours are often obscured by dense breast tissue and ambiguities present near the chest wall, which commonly leads to unnecessary biopsies.

The team is currently working on the software that will allow it to convert the microwave signals from the system into two-dimensional and three-dimensional images of breast tumours.