“Electronic skin” helps detect breast cancer in the initial stage
Breast cancer is quite prevalent in our society and many deaths occur due to breast cancer mainly because the cancer is detected only in the latter stages. Manual examination is easy but is not a fool proof method. MRI and ultrasounds do help detect the presence of lumps. But, the problem with MRI and ultrasound is that though they are good methods, they are very expensive. Moreover, in case of young women and women with dense breast tissues, detecting cancer is very difficult. Dr Ravi F Saraf and Chieu Van Nguyen are of the opinion that early detection is very much important in reducing the mortality rate as diagnosis of cancer at the early stages is beneficial for the afflicted person responding to treatment and for survival rates to be higher when inflicted with breast cancer.
Scientists are now developing ‘electronic skin’ to detect lumps in the breast even if the lumps are very small. Usually mammography helps detect many cases of breast cancer; but in case of clinical breast examination for initial screening of the cancer, lumps that are less than 21mm in length cannot be detected. Earlier diagnosis and detection of lumps when they are very small improves the survival rates by 94% which is perhaps a very high percentage.
There are a few devices available in the market that can mimic the movements of manual examination but Dr Saraf and Nguyen wanted to improve on these devices to increase the imaging quality and to help in detection of lumps at very early stages. The have made an electronic skin which has nanoparticles and polymers that can detect and find small lumps in the breast. They have tested their device on the breast model made of silicone. An article regarding this device appeared in the Journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces. This electronic device was able to detect lumps even when they were very small. Even if the lump is 5mm and 20mm deep, the electronic device can correctly detect its presence.
Breast cancer is treatable when it is diagnosed in the initial stage and a device to detect the cancer cells and lumps in the early stages will surely benefit many women as worldwide breast cancer causes many deaths. With early detection using electronic skin and prevention of growth of cancer cells through appropriate treatments can save the lives of many women.
Dr Saraf is of the opinion that the electronic device developed by him and Nguyen can detect the early signs of melanoma and other cancers. Early detection of cancer is very important to save the life of the person. Late detection of cancer cells are the main reason of the high mortality rate. A device to detect it in the initial stage will be a boon to the society and to the medical community.