Life sciences and health

Developing new breast screening technology

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK with 62,000 women being diagnosed each year.

Current diagnosis relies on uncomfortable X-ray mammography, followed up by biopsy. Of all the lesions investigated, around 30% result in a malignant diagnosis meaning 70% of investigations are unnecessary. Conventional mammograms are less likely to detect breast cancer in younger or Asian populations, who have denser breast tissue.

NPL is developing an ultrasound screening platform, currently undergoing clinical demonstration. This doesn’t use X-rays (so the patient isn’t exposed to radiation) and the screening is carried out with the breast submerged in warm water, without compression, which is a more comfortable experience for the patient. Its capability to better differentiate tissue properties should then ensure more accurate diagnosis.

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