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India Develops Machine That Uses Light to Detect Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the number one type of cancer among women around the world and 450,000 succumb each year to the disease.

Researchers have complained that the machinery currently used to detect cancerous tumors isn’t very good at distinguishing between benign and malignant tumors, and that’s why there are too many cases of breast cancer caught in the later stages.

But researchers in India are currently working on a diagnostic instrument called the Twente Photoacoustic Mammoscope, which uses light to detect what could be abnormalities in the tissue before they become larger and harder to treat.

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The device would create a 3-D image of the breast using infrared light and ultrasound, instead of the more traditional X-ray, which researchers say is not as effective in detecting cancerous cells, especially in the earliest stages where it could be just a tiny speck. To create a photoacoustic image, pulses of laser light is shone onto the tissue being scanned. The light scatters inside tissue and gets selectively absorbed by tumors which are then reflected back and can be “generated” by “light.”

Researchers say they are still working out the kinks, but they expect the new device to cost a lot less than an MRI and X-ray, and probably around the same as a ultrasound. Exposure to radiation with the new device is also expected to be much lower than with the more traditional X-ray.

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