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Detecting breast cancer at an early stage is crucial to saving many lives and it can now become a lot easier as researchers have developed an "electronic skin" that "feels" and images small lumps that fingers can miss and mammography cannot trace.
Current testing methods, including MRI and ultrasounds, are sensitive but expensive and mammography may not be perfect especially when it comes to testing young women or women with dense breast tissue.
The researchers, including an Indian-orgin scientist, made the electronic skin out of nanoparticles and polymers that can detect, "feel" and image small objects.
"Early diagnosis of breast cancer, the most common type of cancer among women, can help save lives," said Ravi Saraf from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in the US.
To test how it might work on a human patient, they embedded lump-like objects in a piece of silicone mimicking a breast and pressed the device against this model with the same pressure a clinician would use in a manual exam.
They were able to image the lump stand-ins, which were as little as 5 mm and as deep as 20 mm.
The study appeared in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.