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New method for early detection of breast cancer

New method for early detection of breast cancer could save lives

A new method for the early detection of breast cancer may lead to more accurate diagnosis and potentially save lives, says a visiting expert from the world-renowned Mayo Clinic.

Dr Mostafa Fatemi, who is collaborating with the Diagnostics and Control Research Centre at the Auckland University of Technology, says for centuries, physicians have used palpation, or physical examination, as a diagnostic method to evaluate tissue stiffness and detect lesions.

“While this is an important tool, it is inaccurate and fails when the lesion is small or lies deep in the body,” he says.

At a public lecture to be held on Friday 10 October at AUT, Dr Fatemi will present the principle and applications of vibro-acoustography, a method that utilises the radiation force of ultrasound to vibrate an object at desired frequencies and records the object’s response via a sensitive hydrophone.

“An advantage of this method is that the radiation force can be generated directly on the region of interest inside the body. Thus, the superficial layers do not affect the response of the tissue.”

Vibro-acoustography is a non-invasive method that can be used in at least two modes: imaging and parameter estimation. In the first mode, it can be used in imaging the breast with the aim of detecting micro-calcifications or detecting hard lesions, imaging arteries to detect plaque and calcifications, and imaging lesions in the liver, he says.

“In vivo and in vitro vibro-acoustography imaging experiments have shown promising results.”

“The second mode is a quantitative estimation of material properties. In a recent collaborative study with AUT’s Diagnostics and Control Research Centre, we have studied the vibration of implants in soft tissue by vibro-acoustography.”

The aim of this study is to evaluate the pathological condition of the tissue surrounding an implant. An application of this study is to monitor tissue reaction for foreign objects, which is an important issue affecting many medical implants, he says.


Director of AUT’s Diagnostics and Control Research Centre Professor Ahmed Al-Jumaily says vibro-acoustography could be a boon for the early detection of breast cancer in New Zealand where more than 600 women die annually from the disease - the sixth highest death rate from breast cancer out of 173 developed countries.

“Early detection is particularly important for the effective treatment of breast cancer. While a traditional physical examination is important, we hope this new method will add to the accuracy of detecting the disease in its very early stages.”

Dr Fatemi is on a collaborative research visit to the Diagnostics and Control Research Centre. The visit is sponsored by the Royal Society’s International Science and Technology linkages fund (ISAT) and covers collaboration in several areas of research including vibro-acoustography and drug free techniques of relieving asthma, which is the main research theme of the centre.

Dr Fatemi holds a PhD, MSc and BSc in Electrical Engineering. He has 30 years of teaching and research experience in various universities and research institutions around the world.

Public seminar: Vibro-acoustography: A novel imaging technique based on the radiation force of ultrasound

Speaker: Dr Mostafa Fatemi, PhD
Mayo Foundation, Rochester, MN, USA

Date: Friday October 10, 2003
Time: 12-1 noon
Venue: WS114, Faculty of Science and Engineering, St Paul’s Street, (off Symonds St)

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