Photoacoustic mammoscope may enhance breast cancer imaging

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According to an article published in the medical journal Optics Express, photoacoustic techniques can supplement conventional imaging techniques in breast cancer diagnostics by adding information concerning the vascularization of a tumor.

The photoacoustic mammoscope (PAM), developed by scientists at the University of Twente in Enschede, The Netherlands, uses pulsed light from a laser, with which part of the breast is scanned. Blood vessels absorb the light, resulting in local heating, and yield a pressure wave, which is detected as an ultrasound. By calculating the origin of the pressure wave, the location of the vessel can be visualized.

In four out of five cases, the photoacoustic images of the suspect breast area show areas of high intensity around the tumor. The scientists attribute this to the vascularization of the tumor.

The PAM-scan is taken with the patient in a lying position and the breast is mildly compressed. The current examination takes about half an hour, but with faster ultrasound detectors this can be improved.

Clinical studies will take place to more accurately determine PAM’s accuracy.