An Optical Method to Measure the Thickness of Compressed Objects
Each year, 182,000 women are struck by breast cancer in the United States alone. The earlier the disease is detected, the better the prognosis. To this end, there are about 14,000 mammography machines installed in the United States, performing about 24 million mammograms a year, nine out of 10 of which are routine screenings performed on asymptomatic women.
Accurate information regarding compressed breast thickness is an important factor for estimating volumetric breast density for breast cancer risk prediction as well as for dose calculation. However, using current commercial mammography units, the measured breast thickness can be as large as one centimeter off from the actual thickness. The accuracy and precision is not reliable, because the transmitted X-ray intensity through the breast is dependent on both the compositions of the breast and its local thickness. Most current mammography machines have thickness indicators, which do not show actual breast thickness if the plastic compression plate and arm bend or flex. Other techniques have been developed such as using the magnification of lead markers placed on the top of compression plate. This method requires that all markers be shown in the image and does not measure the flexing of plastic plates.
The inventors have devised an optical method, which accurately and precisely measures compressed breast thickness and its spatial variation during mammography. It is far less intrusive to the imaging procedure than the mapping of radiographic markets positioned on the top surface of the paddle and the method is sensitive to the effects of both paddle tilt and flexing. Importantly, the utilization of this method would not require significant changes to be made to current mammography units and it does not interfere with the mammographic procedure.
US patent applications have been filed.
The Innovations Group is seeking a commercial partner to exploit this novel technology. The technology is available under a non-exclusive license.
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