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Hand-held Breast Scanner May Help Women Spot Potential Problems

Device meant as a pre-screening tool, to encourage self-examination

TUESDAY, Dec. 7, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A prototype of a hand-held scanner that women can use at home for early detection of breast cancer has been developed by researchers at Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania.

The battery-operated optical NIRScanner is meant to be used during breast self-exams and to encourage women to see their doctor at the first sign of a potential problem. The researchers hope to conduct large-scale clinical trials of the scanner and bring the device to market within the next few years.

"This is a pre-screening tool. It is not meant to replace mammograms or other breast-scanning technology, but rather to enhance self-examination," co-developer Dr. Banu Onaral, director of Drexel's School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health System, said in a prepared statement.

"The device detects metabolic activity, which is increased as the tumor forms and grows. It beeps louder to indicate the location of the breast where metabolic activity changes," Onaral said.

"We want the NIRScanner to be available and affordable to all women, including those in underserved communities. Our overall goal is to have women who avoid breast checks because of the pain associated with mammography to use this device," NIRScanner inventor Dr. Britton Chance, of Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about early breast cancer detection.

SOURCE: Drexel University, news release, December 2004
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