Wearable devices are all the rage in personal fitness – could wearable breast ultrasound be next? MIT researchers have developed a patch-sized wearable breast ultrasound device that’s small enough to be incorporated into a bra for early cancer detection. They described their work in a new paper in Science Advances.
This isn’t the first use of wearable ultrasound. In fact, earlier this year UCSD researchers revealed their work on a wearable cardiac ultrasound device that obtains real-time data on cardiac function.
The MIT team’s concept expands the idea into cancer detection. They took advantage of previous work on conformable piezoelectric ultrasound transducer materials to develop cUSBr-Patch, a one-dimensional phased-array probe integrated into a honeycomb-shaped patch that can be inserted into a soft fabric bra.
The array covers the entire breast surface and can acquire images from multiple angles and views using 64 elements at a 7MHz frequency. The honeycomb design means that the array can be rotated and moved into different imaging positions, and the bra can even be reversed to acquire images from the other breast.
The researchers tested cUSBr-Patch on phantoms and a human subject, and compared it to a conventional ultrasound scanner. They found that cUSBr-Patch:
- Had a field of view up to 100mm wide and an imaging depth up to 80mm
- Achieved resolution comparable to conventional ultrasound
- Detected cysts as small as 30mm in the human volunteer, a 71-year-old woman with a history of breast cysts
- The same cysts were detected with the array in different positions, an important capability for long-term monitoring
The MIT researchers believe that wearable breast ultrasound could detect early-stage breast cancer, in cases such as high-risk people in between routine screening mammograms.
The researchers ultimately hope to develop a version of the device that’s about the size of a smartphone (right now the array has to be hooked up to a conventional ultrasound scanner to view images). They also want to investigate the use of AI to analyze images.
It’s still early days for wearable breast ultrasound, but the new results are an exciting development that hints of future advances to come. Wearable breast ultrasound could even have an advantage over other wearable use cases like cardiac monitoring, as it doesn’t require continuous imaging during the user’s activities. Stay tuned.