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Wearable ultrasound patch allows at-home breast cancer detection

A new wearable patch aims to make breast cancer detection more accessible and less intimidating

MIT researchers designed a wearable ultrasound device that could detect tumors  in early stages.
MIT researchers designed a wearable ultrasound device that could detect tumors in early stages. (MIT/Canan Dagdeviren)

When diagnosed early, the survival rate of breast cancer is nearly 99% though it drops significantly when caught in the later stages. To improve the overall survival rate of those with breast cancer, researchers have developed a wearable ultrasound device that helps people detect the cancer early on.

Developed by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the new device could enable at-home detection of breast cancer and especially, help people who have who have inherited the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes—genes that are associated with a high risk of developing breast cancer. Currently, mammograms and ultrasounds are the most common methods for checking for breast cancer. However, breast tumours that develop in between regular mammograms, known as interval cancers, account for 20 to 30% of all breast cancer cases.

Also read: Everything you should know about breast cancer

The new device is a flexible patch that can be attached to a bra, which enables the wearer to adjust the ultrasound tracker along the patch and capture images of the breast tissue from different angles, according to the press statement published in MIT News. The scanner is based on the ultrasound technology used in medical imaging centres and uses a novel material that allows the researchers to design the ultrasound scanner in a miniature size.

The 3D-printed patch has honeycomb-like openings that can be attached to a bra, allowing the scanner to contact the skin. The ultrasound scanner is inside a small tracker that can be adjusted up to six different positions and take images from different angles. Notably, it doesn’t require any expertise to use, according to the statement.

“We changed the form factor of the ultrasound technology so that it can be used in your home. It’s portable and easy to use, and provides real-time, user-friendly monitoring of breast tissue,” said Canan Dagdeviren, senior author of the study, in the statement. Through this device, the researchers aim to increase the frequency of screening and the survival rate overall rate up to 98%.

This new research and design will significantly boost ultrasound research using novel materials, AI algorithms and biomedical systems, Anantha Chandrakasan, one of the authors of the study said in the statement. Furthermore, the device could increase accessibility to breast cancer scanning and also make it a less intimidating process.

Previously in 2021, MIT researchers had developed artificial intelligence tools to detect breast cancer. They created a risk-assessment algorithm that showed consistent performance across datasets from US, Europe, and Asia, according to MIT News.

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