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Not your mother's mammography [breast cancer detection]

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Breast cancer accounts for nearly one of every three cancers diagnosed in US women. While great strides have been made in early detection, the conventional method of mammography is not failproof it has trouble imaging dense tissue, it may show suspicious areas where no malignancy exists, and radiologists interpreting the images can miss up to 15 percent of cancers. It's also uncomfortable, requiring each breast to be compressed between plastic plates, which can lead to bruising. Susan Hagness wants to change all that. An assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she is pioneering a novel detection technique that uses ultrawideband microwaves to image even the tiniest malignant tumors in the breast. Breast tumors and normal tissue show much more contrast at microwave frequencies than at the X-ray frequencies used for mammograms. Microwaves are also nonionizing, and the technique requires no breast compression. In Susan Hagness' search for a better way to detect breast cancer, she gets her students involved, too. Such efforts have paid off: her courses consistently receive high marks on student evaluations.

Published in:

Spectrum, IEEE  (Volume:39 ,  Issue: 10 )

Date of Publication:

Oct 2002

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