By Paulyn Lloyd, Richard Redman, Marcus Chippindale and Anna Winter
A groundbreaking portable scanner that instantly detects breast cancer may soon allow women to test themselves from home thanks to research by The University of Manchester.
Professor Zhipeng Wu’s team has worked closely with researchers in the US, Canada and the UK to develop the technology.
The scanner will be affordable thanks to its use of mobile phone technology and researchers are confident it will be safe to use.
“It has taken a decade of research to develop as part of a worldwide effort, and we had the breakthrough recently” said Professor Wu.
“I expect this kind of machine to be used in a lot of places in the future.”
The scanner uses radio technology to detect malignant and benign breast tumours, and display them on a computer screen within a second.
Despite this, the announcement has been met with a mixed response by some.
Arlene Wilkie, Director of Research and Policy at the Breast Cancer Campaign, said: “Breast screening should take place under the supervision of a trained professional and therefore we wouldn’t recommend using a test at home.”
It is hoped that the new technology will reduce waiting times and be especially beneficial for women under 50, where the current detection rate using mammography can be as low as 60%.
Jane Lamb, a 55-year-old retired teacher, underwent a mammogram while being treated for the disease in 2008.
She said that some people might be put off by current treatment methods and intrusive examinations.
“It’s not pleasant and it is uncomfortable”, said Mrs Lamb. “If there was another way of scanning it would be preferable.”
She added: “This new development could take some of the trauma out of a very stressful situation.”
The scanners are still undergoing trials and may not be in hospitals for several years, but Professor Wu says they will be worth the wait.
He said: “This will benefit millions of women in both developed and developing countries.”
Breast cancer is the second biggest killer in women, accounting for 8.2% of all cancer deaths, and one in nine women may develop it in their lifetime.
The disease also affects around 240 men a year in the UK, but they will not be able to use the scanner.
This month is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, which includes ‘Wear It Pink Day’ on 29 October.
For more information about National Breast Cancer Awareness month visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk.