Breastlight: Cancer early warning

July 23, 2012

MALAYSIA – A powerful torch with a bright-red beam, shown to be effective in detecting malignant breast tumours – could be the answer to anyone worried about the effectiveness of self-examination.

The Breastlight, a hand-held device which emits a safe, LED-powered light, picked up 67 per cent of malignant tumours in a trial conducted at Sunderland City Hospital, which is due to be published in 2010. A previous trial was conducted in Ghana by a charity which has been using Breastlight as part of their screening process when examining women in rural areas. The results were published in 2009 at the 2nd Annual African Breast Cancer Conference in Cairo, Egypt, and reported a success rate of 96%.

Mammographies typically pick up between 60% and 85% of cancers. The torch can even spot tiny lumps – as small as 7mm – which are not considered large enough to be felt during a physical examination.

Not a substitute for a mammography, the Breastlight may be ideal for thousands of women who are uncomfortable about performing monthly breast checks. It could also offer reassurance to those aged below 50 who are not eligible for the national breast screening programme.

According to Abex Medical System, a local distributor of this product,  because there is no population-based breast cancer screening program in the majority of Asian countries, the majority of patients present with advanced disease. Most of the Asian countries are low- and middle-income countries, where access to effective care is limited. Because of the late detection and inadequate access to care, survival of women with breast cancer in Asia is lower than in western countries.

The Breastlight is easy to use. The user stands in a darkened room, holding the torch underneath and to the side of their breast, against the skin. The beam lights up the tissue which appears red, so the user can see the network of blood vessels (which appear black) that spread through the breast very clearly.

In a healthy breast, these look like slender, wiggly lines – and every woman will have a different number. A tumour would show up as a dark spot or area attached to a blood vessel. The user doesn’t need to remember how her breast looks each month; just to watch out for dark patches attached to blood vessels.

Category: Technology & Devices

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