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Mobile breast scanner for at-home screening

A professor at Manchester University invents a scanner based on radio frequency technology that can fit over a bra and whose screen flags tumors as red dots.

As National Breast Cancer Awareness month comes to a close, a professor at Manchester University is bringing hope to women (and men) worldwide with his new invention--a portable real-time breast scanner.

A new portable scanner in the shape of a bra cup captures 30 images per second. Manchester University

Zhipeng Wu has invented a scanner in the shape of a cup to fit over a bra, and uses radio frequency to find differences in tissue instead of measuring density, as mammography does.

The patented scanner still needs to undergo rigorous testing, but looks at this point to be both safe and inexpensive (compared to existing systems), and it can fit in a case the size of a lunch box. Moreover, it can capture 30 images a second, revealing in real time the presence and location of tumors via red dots.

Because the device cannot distinguish between malignant and benign tumors, it's only intended to be used to screen for tumors, and would require further testing to determine whether those tumors are cancerous. Still, it would enable both at-home and general practitioner screening in a matter of seconds.

"Although there is still research to be done, the system has great potential to bring a new way for breast cancer diagnosis," Wu says. "This will benefit millions of women in both developed and developing countries--bearing in mind that one in nine women may develop breast cancer in their lifetime."

The scanner has been short-listed in two categories at the Institution of Engineering and Technology Innovation Awards. Winners will be announced in November.