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Neutron Stimulated Emission Computed Tomography for Diagnosis of Breast Cancer

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10 Author(s)

Neutron stimulated emission computed tomography (NSECT) is being developed as a non-invasive spectroscopic imaging technique to determine element concentrations in the human body. NSECT uses a beam of fast neutrons that scatter inelastically from atomic nuclei in tissue, causing them to emit characteristic gamma photons that are detected and identified using an energy-sensitive gamma detector. By measuring the energy and number of emitted gamma photons, the system can determine the elemental composition of the target tissue. Such determination is useful in detecting several disorders in the human body that are characterized by changes in element concentration, such as breast cancer. In this paper we describe our experimental implementation of a prototype NSECT system for the diagnosis of breast cancer and present experimental results from sensitivity studies using this prototype. Results are shown from three sets of samples: (a) excised breast tissue samples with unknown element concentrations, (b) a multi-element calibration sample used for sensitivity studies, and (c) a small-animal specimen, to demonstrate detection ability from in-vivo tissue. Preliminary results show that NSECT has the potential to detect elements in breast tissue. Several elements were identified common to both benign and malignant samples, which were confirmed through neutron activation analysis (NAA). Statistically significant differences were seen for peaks at energies corresponding to 37Cl, 56Fe, 58Ni, 59Co, 79Br and 87Rb. The spectrum from the small animal specimen showed the presence of 12C from tissue, from bone, and elements 39K, 27Al, 37Cl, 56Fe, 68Zn and 25Mg. Threshold sensitivity for the four elements analyzed was found to range from 0.3 grams to 1 gram, which is higher than the microgram sensitivity required for cancer detection. Patient do- se levels from NSECT were found to be comparable to those of screening mammography.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science  (Volume:55 ,  Issue: 1 )