A research team from the Antennas and Propagation group of IT in Lisbon is developing new methods and technology to help detect breast cancer at an early stage, without any contact with the breast, using Microwaves.
The primary imaging technique currently used to detect breast cancer – the second most common type of cancer in the world – is mammography. Besides using ionizing radiation, this technique is also uncomfortable since it requires the compression of the breast. This led the IT researchers to explore an alternative technique that uses microwave imaging. Although lacking the same resolution of the X-ray, microwaves show potential as a preliminary diagnostic method, offering an even greater contrast between healthy and malignant tissues, which favors a more reliable detection.
Microwaves with power levels lower than those used in current personal communication devices have no known health hazards and the procedure does not involve any manipulation of the breast. Also, this alternative technology is much less expensive than the one used in x-rays, potentiating its use for screening the population on a large scale.
Having considered the potential, the IT research team has been focusing on developing new solutions – both hardware and signal processing - to overcome the technological challenges that microwave imaging faces and which have been the subject of research throughout the world. So far, results have been promising, with the team currently working to build a concept demonstrator that integrates all these advances.