In Vivo Breast Imaging and Tissue Evaluation by Vibroacoustic Methods

Palpation remains one of the simplest yet effective methods for detecting malignant breast lesions because the stiffness of breast tumors usually differs significantly from surrounding tissues. Mammography has been the main tool of breast imaging for many years, mostly to detect microcalcifications (MCs), which can be associated with breast malignancies. However, this method has limited sensitivity, especially in dense breasts. Conventional brightness mode ultrasound imaging also is increasingly used for breast imaging, but this method alone is not sensitive to tissue stiffness. In addition, ultrasound imaging suffers from speckle artifact that masks small structures; thus, it is difficult to detect MCs with this method.

Research methods

Significant effort has been invested to develop improved breast-imaging techniques, especially those that provide palpation-like information. Vibro-acoustography (VA) is a novel noninvasive imaging method that produces palpation-like information. Since VA uses a new and unique intrinsic characteristic of tissue, it needs a full investigation to compare its capabilities with the more traditional breast-imaging techniques. Using an experimental VA system, researchers have demonstrated the capability of this method to image breast in vivo, identify lesions and MCs. In light of the results, the next logical step is to transition to a "clinical" breast VA imaging system. Using an array transducer is an important step in translating VA from experimental stage to clinical applications using a modern electronic scanning technique with a hand-held probe.

Project aims

The purpose of this research is to investigate the VA system based on an array transducer for breast imaging. Here, breast imaging is studied with a linear array probe in conjunction with a clinical ultrasound scanner and evaluation of its performance in identification of lesions in the human breast. The combined system will have the capability of producing VA and ultrasound images with suitable resolution for breast applications.

This research aims at developing a new tool for breast imaging. In this study the effectiveness of this new method is examined as a diagnostic tool in identification of breast lesions and breast cancer. The goals are as follows:

  • Develop a VA system with a linear-array probe.
  • Quantify the performance of the new VA system using breast phantoms.
  • Test the performance of the system on breast tissue samples.
  • Test the system on human breast.

Successful completion of this research will open the way for a new class of breast-imaging tools. The combination of features offered by VA, such as sensitivity to stiffness, lack of speckle in image and sensitivity to MCs, will have a significant impact as a diagnostic tool in identification of breast lesions and breast cancer.