Taufiquar Khan, mathematical science professor at Clemson University, and his colleagues are working to make the physical pain and discomfort of mammograms a thing of past, while allowing for diagnostic imaging eventually to be done in a home setting.
The group is fine-tuning Diffuse Optical Tomography (DOT) to create high-resolution images from a scattering of infrared and visible light for the early detection of breast cancer. While the method is less expensive, safer and more comfortable than X-rays used in mammograms, the problem has been generating a strong enough resolution to detect smaller breast cancers.
â€œThe problem with DOT is that it is a 3-D method where photon density waves launched from a source travel in a banana-shaped path due to multiple scattering, whereas X-rays follow straight lines which make the mathematical problem more manageable and the resolution of the image sharper.â€ said Khan. â€œWith DOT, near-infrared or near-visible photons make the process safer for the body than with the radiation of X-rays, but they are difficult to track because of the scattering and absorption. So we are coming up with equations that will help get us from capturing cancers that are 4 millimeters in size, down to capturing those as small as 1 millimeter.â€
Khan says benefits of DOT include the elimination of harmful radiation to the body as well as false positives and negatives caused by mammography X-rays. He adds there are no harmful side effects to DOT, and some version of DOT eventually could be administered in a do-it-yourself setting at home within the next decade. In addition to breast screening, he says it eventually maybe used as part of other diagnostic procedures such as ultrasound.