When a woman or her doctor feels a suspicious lump in her breast, a mammogram and an ultrasound exam are the first steps in evaluating it.
But what if she lives far from a hospital with diagnostic imaging equipment — a problem faced by some rural Americans and millions of women in developing countries?
Chang-Hee Won, an electrical and computer engineer at Temple University, is developing a noninvasive, inexpensive, portable device that could help such women by distinguishing lumps that are probably benign from those that are more worrisome.
His “tactile imaging system” capitalizes on the fact that cancerous lumps tend to feel harder and less movable than harmless abnormalities such as fluid-filled cysts or fibrous nodules. The fist-sized, $1,000 machine — with an elastomer probe, a light, and a camera — acts like ultrasensitive fingertips. It measures the size, elasticity, and mobility of a breast lump, then a computer program converts the data into a score from 1 to 5, with scores under 2 likely to be benign.