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article imageFingertip sensors developed for breast cancer exams

By Tim Sandle     Jan 1, 2017 in Health
For women, regular check-ups for unusual lumps in their breasts is important and it has saved countless lives. To make this process more accurate, scientists have developed special gloves with built-in sensors.
The gloves will aid experienced doctors but their main purpose is to assist new doctors and doctors who are in training and who may not be as experienced of the necessary signs. This is an important aspects of medical training, given that the breast exam is the foremost way to detect breast cancer.
The sensors have been devised by University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists and engineers. Talking to Controlled Environments magazine, lead researcher Professor Hongrui Jiang explains: “this whole project is about facilitating the training of residents.”
The development has involved the creation of tiny sensors designed to measure pressure on breast tissue, where variations can be indicative of a lump. For trainees the results can be verified against a computer and by a senior doctor.
The sensors took several years to develop. The complexity related to the need to have devices capable of capturing small variations in pressure and to compensate for the motions of a moving hand, particularly with circular motions. With this it is very difficult to devise a machine that can intuitively interpret data the same way that a person might.
This was achieved through the integration of four overlapping components. These enabled the sensor to quantify pressure and shear forces, across all dimensions. The device was sufficiently innovative to be recognized at the Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ prestigious Sensors Conference, held in the autumn of 2016.
Further work is underway to try to make the sensor smaller and for an improved way of capturing and interpreting data from multiple devices. Interviewed by Controlled Environments magazine, Professor Jiang said: “there’s a real need to improve physician training. We didn’t realize there was such a clinical need. It’s a very challenging problem, but very interesting and very significant.”
More about breast exams, Cancer, Breast Cancer, Medical, Medicine
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