Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageLaser to replace X-rays and biopsy in breast cancer detection

By R. C. Camphausen     Sep 27, 2010 in Health
A portable device producing a painless laser beam is under development and can spot early signs of breast cancer, tooth decay and osteoporosis. The method is known as Raman spectroscopy, and researchers think it can come into use in about 5 years.
Since 2001, teams of researchers in the Netherlands and the United States have been investigating devices known as Raman spectroscopy probes and have meanwhile advanced to a stage at which they predict that these devises will revolutionize the detection of breast cancer and other diseases. The portable devices emit a painless laser beam that can read the molecular signature of cells in blood samples as well as the human body itself.
Such signatures of cells can be detected by the spectroscopy probes, because a normal and healthy cell refracts the laser's light in a different way than does a cancerous one. As of now, reports the BBC, Raman spectroscopy could help spot early signs of breast cancer, but also of osteoporosis and tooth decay.
While most light from the laser bounces off the skin, a small fraction -- the so-called Raman spectrum -- has different wavelengths that produce something akin to an optical fingerprint, showing the state of a given cell and revealing the type of disease affecting it; if any.
The new tool is not only safer than currently used methods, it also yields results faster. The major advantage, however, is the fact that this method is non-invasive, painless and safe. At the moment, X-Ray imaging is used which is slightly dangerous in itself, and if something shows up in the image -- for example signs of calcification in the milk-ducts of a breast -- the following step is a biopsy, an invasive and painful technique in which a small amount of tissue is extracted from the detected site. Computed tomography (CT) scans are another option, but this entails that the patient has to imbibe radioactive material.
Meanwhile, researchers in the UK have joined the quest for this new, fast and non-invasive medical tool, and the BBC report quotes one of the researchers saying that "In the UK alone, that would save about 80,000 patients from having secondary procedures," referring to the biopsies mentioned above.
The so-called Raman effect (or Raman spectrum) is not a new discovery, it has been around since 1928 and is so named after it's discoverer, Indian physicist and Nobel laureate in physics, Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (1888 – 1970).
For more detailed information, see the website of UC DAVIS Health System.
More about Raman, Laser, Cancer, Spectroscopy, Breast Cancer
More news from