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Microwave breast imaging (using electromagnetic waves of frequencies around 1 GHz) has mostly remained at the research level for the past decade, gaining little clinical acceptance. The major hurdles limiting patient use are both at the hardware level (challenges in collecting accurate and noncorrupted data) and software level (often plagued by unrealistic reconstruction times in the tens of hours). In this paper we report improvements that address both issues. First, the hardware is able to measure signals down to levels compatible with sub-centimeter image resolution while keeping an exam time under 2 min. Second, the software overcomes the enormous time burden and produces similarly accurate images in less than 20 min. The combination of the new hardware and software allows us to produce and report here the first clinical 3-D microwave tomographic images of the breast. Two clinical examples are selected out of 400+ exams conducted at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (Lebanon, NH). The first example demonstrates the potential usefulness of our system for breast cancer screening while the second example focuses on therapy monitoring.
Date of Publication: Aug. 2012