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Water detects breast cancer?

August 5, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Physicists and radiologists have developed new technology to detect breast cancer using water instead of radiation.Judy Ballard is no stranger to breast cancer.

"I was just re-diagnosed in December and this time I had a mastectomy, and it was a little bit rougher ride for me," said Judy Ballard, a breast cancer patient and survivor.

And Judy's still at risk for it to return. So she's getting a follow-up screening with a new technology that uses water.

"It feels like a little sauna on your breast. The water temperature is warm, it's very relaxing, it's comforting," said Ballard.

"So far it's been able to see almost all the cancers that are above five millimeters," said Dr. Peter Littrup, Karmanos Cancer Institute.

Developed by physicists and radiologists, the new technology, called Computed Ultrasound Risk Evaluation Device -- or CURE -- does not use radiation, lasts one minute and is completely pain-free.

"We can get images with a lot more information than we've currently been able to. So I don't think we'll have as many false positive situations. In fact we're trying to also use this to reduce unnecessary biopsies," said Dr. Littrup.

While the woman's breast is suspended in water, ultrasound sensors transmit sound waves through the water. The device measures how the sound waves travel through the breast tissue. Computer images help doctors better pinpoint cancerous tissue.

"Based on the more limited trails that we've done so far, it does in fact to appear to be more accurate than mammography," said physicist Dr. Neb Duric.

Judy's clinical trial scan results are being studied. Other tests show her cancer has not come back.

"I'm a strong person, my attitude was it's not going to get me," said Ballard. Because she knows she's doing all she can to catch it early.

In clinical trials, the CURE, found 90 percent of cancers and identified 90 percent of benign masses, as well.

Web Extra Information:

WATER DETECTS BREAST CANCER?

HOW ULTRASOUND WORKS: Ultrasound is a medical imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves and their echoes. It is similar to how bats navigate in the dark, and the SONAR used by submarines underwater. The machine transmits high-frequency sound pulses into the body using a probe. The sound waves travel through the body and bounce off any boundaries, such as between fluid and soft tissue, tissue and bone. Some of the sound waves are reflected back to the probe, while others travel further through until they bounce off another boundary. All the reflected waves are recorded by the machine, which then calculates the distance each sound wave traveled based on how long it took the sound wave's echo to return. This data is used to form a two-dimensional image based on the distances and intensities of those echoes.

ABOUT BREAST CANCER: Breast cancer is a type of cancer in which cells in the breast become abnormal and grow and divide uncontrollably, eventually forming a mass called a tumor. Some tumors are benign, meaning that they do not invade other types of tissue, although if they become big enough, they can interfere with some bodily functions, such as the flow of blood or urine. Malignant tumors have cells that can invade nearby tissues. When a cancer "metastasizes," cells from the original tumor break off and travel to other parts of the body via the blood or lymph systems. More than 75 percent of breast cancers begin in the milk ducts within the breast. The next most common site is in the glandular tissue that makes the milk.

The American Physical Society and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

 

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