Breast Cancer Imaging

breast cancer

X-ray mammography plays a critical role in detecting breast cancers early--up to two years before a patient or physician might feel a suspicious lump. Yet, the contrast between cancer and non-cancer on an X-ray is limited to a few percent, making it impossible to determine without a biopsy whether lesions picked up by this method reflect true malignancies or benign cysts.

Did you know?

By the ninth mammogram, the odds of getting a false alarm can be as high as 100 percent for women with multiple high-risk factors for breast cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 92: 1657-1666.

ECE Professor Qing Liu is developing a microwave-based breast imaging system that could be much more discerning. Because the electromagnetic properties of cancer versus non-cancer differ dramatically--by a few hundred percent--microwave imaging methods could offer a more informative method for early disease detection. Liu's team has developed an algorithm for reconstructing a very high-resolution image based on the complex scattering of microwave radiation as it bounces off of tissues with record-breaking speed. They have also built a prototype device for 3-D microwave breast imaging, and expect to begin clinical trials in about three years. The inroads they are making with microwave imagers might also contribute to devices able to peer through walls or deep underground, advances that would have important defense applications.