MIT Researchers Develop Wearable Ultrasound Patch for Early Breast Cancer Detection
Breast cancer is a prevalent and life-threatening disease, with survival rates depending heavily on early detection. In an effort to improve survival rates and provide more frequent screening for individuals at high risk, researchers at MIT have developed a wearable ultrasound device that can detect breast tumors in their early stages. This breakthrough technology could revolutionize breast cancer detection and save countless lives.
The device, a flexible ultrasound patch, can be attached to a bra, allowing the wearer to move an ultrasound tracker along the patch and image the breast tissue from different angles. The researchers demonstrated that the ultrasound images obtained using the patch had a resolution comparable to that of traditional ultrasound probes used in medical imaging centers. This innovative approach allows for easy, real-time monitoring of breast tissue in the comfort of one’s home.
The inspiration behind this device came from the researchers’ personal experiences with breast cancer. Associate Professor Canan Dagdeviren, the senior author of the study, was motivated by her late aunt, who was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer despite undergoing regular screenings. Dagdeviren envisioned a diagnostic device that could be incorporated into a bra and provide more frequent screening for individuals at high risk of developing breast cancer.
The miniaturized ultrasound scanner used in the device is based on the same technology employed in medical imaging centers. However, the researchers incorporated a novel piezoelectric material that allowed them to shrink the scanner’s size while maintaining its imaging capabilities. To make the device wearable, they designed a flexible, 3D-printed patch with honeycomb-like openings that can be magnetically attached to a bra. The ultrasound scanner fits inside a small tracker, which can be moved to six different positions to image the entire breast. Furthermore, the scanner can be rotated to capture images from various angles, and it does not require specialized knowledge or training to operate.
In a successful trial on a 71-year-old woman with a history of breast cysts, the researchers were able to detect cysts as small as 0.3 centimeters in diameter, comparable to early-stage tumors. The device achieved resolution similar to traditional ultrasound, and it could penetrate tissue up to 8 centimeters deep. Working with the MIT Center for Clinical and Translational Research, the team aims to develop a miniaturized version of the imaging system that would be as small as a smartphone.
The potential impact of this wearable ultrasound patch is significant. It could significantly increase the survival rate for breast cancer patients by targeting those individuals most at risk of developing interval cancer—tumors that arise between routine mammograms. This technology not only eliminates the need for individuals to travel to imaging centers but also allows for more frequent, reliable, and less intimidating diagnostic procedures. Furthermore, the researchers plan to leverage artificial intelligence to analyze the gathered data and provide more accurate diagnostics over time.
It is crucial to address barriers to early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer to provide better healthcare access and improve outcomes. The wearable ultrasound patch developed by MIT researchers offers a practical and effective solution that could potentially save lives. With further advancements in ultrasound research, medical device designs, and AI algorithms, this technology holds the promise of revolutionizing breast cancer detection and significantly increasing survival rates.