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Wearable device might detect early-stage breast cancer


Video courtesy of MIT Media Lab

CANCER DIGEST – Aug. 5, 2023 – Researchers have developed a wearable device that could provide high-risk patients earlier detection of breast cancer.


The device fits onto a bra and allows for frequent ultrasound monitoring that is capable of detecting cancer in the earliest stages, when the survival rate is nearly 100 percent. The researchers published their work in the July 28, 2023 journal Science Advances.


The device developed by Wenya Du, Lin Zhang, Emma Suh and Sabin Lin, research scientists in the laboratory of Canan Dagdeviren, an associate professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), provides ultrasound images with resolution comparable to that of medical imaging centers.


Breast cancers that develop between regularly scheduled mammograms, called interval cancers, make up about 20 to 30 percent of all breast cancer cases, and tend to be more aggressive and difficult to treat. The goal of the research team was to develop a way to provide high-risk patients with a way to have more frequent monitoring.


“My goal is to target the people who are most likely to develop interval cancer,” Dagdeviren said in a press release. His research group specializes in developing wearable electronic devices that conform to the body. “With more frequent screening, our goal is to increase the survival rate to up to 98 percent.”

Dagdeviren’s vision was to design a miniaturized ultrasound scanner that would allow the user to perform imaging at any time. To make it wearable she designed a flexible honeycomb patch that is printed by a 3-D printer. The patch conforms to the breast and can be attached to a bra.


The patch has magnets fitted around the perimeter and the tiny ultrasound scanner fits into specially designed slots in the honeycomb and can be moved into six different positions to allow the entire breast to be imaged.


Working with a 71-year-old woman with a history of breast cysts the researchers were able to validate the imaging device as it detected cysts as small as 0.3 centimeters or a little more than a 10th of an inch in diameter, which is the size of early-stage tumors.


To see the images, the researchers currently have to connect the scanner to the same kind of ultrasound machine used in imaging centers, but they are working on a miniaturized device that would allow the images to be seen on a device the size of a smartphone.


Source: MIT press release

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