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 A Safer New World For Women

The world’s first radar breast imaging system developed at Bristol University that could revolutionise the way women are scanned for breast cancer, is being trialled at North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT)…

Professor Alan Preece and Dr Ian Craddock from the University of Bristol have been working for a number of years to develop a breast-imaging device which uses radio waves and therefore has no radiation risk unlike conventional mammograms.

The team began developing and researching a prototype around five years ago and have received funding from organisations including the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the trustees of the United Bristol Hospitals and the University of Bristol spin-out company, Micrima Ltd.

Dr Ian Craddock from the University’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said: “This new imaging technique works by transmitting radio waves of a very low energy and detecting reflected signals, it then uses these signals to make a 3D image of the breast. This is basically the same as any radar system, such as the radars used for air traffic control at our airports.”

Mike Shere, Associate Specialist Breast Clinician at NBT, added: “Currently women are diagnosed in three ways: firstly by a clinician then by using imaging such as mammography and ultrasound and lastly by a needle biopsy.

“The radar breast imaging system came to Frenchay in September this year and so far around 60 women have been examined using it.

“It takes less time to operate than a mammogram approximately six minutes for both breasts compared with 30-45 minutes for an MRI, and like an MRI it provides a very detailed 3D digital image.

“Women love it as they compare it to a mammogram and find the whole experience much more comfortable.”

The radar breast imaging system is built using transmitters and receivers arranged around a ceramic cup, which the breast sits in. These transmitters view the breast from several different angles.

In the initial stages of the study the team used mammogram images to compare similar abnormalities in the new 3D image produced from the radio breast imaging system.

Professor Preece from the University’s Medical Physics, said: “I started off looking at breast tumour imaging in 1990 using a hand held scanner similar to ultrasound however it did not have enough sensitivity and that’s when I got to know some people in engineering and together we approached the EPSRC to help.

“Using this engineering knowledge we built the machine using ground penetrating radar, a similar technique to land mine detection to take four hundred quarter of a second pictures of the breast to form a 3D image.

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