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New handheld device could identify skin cancers without a biopsy

The rays harmlessly penetrate around 2mm into human skin and the technology gives doctors a 3D map of scanned lesions.

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Method of dermoscopy of skin lesions and moles. Preventing Melanoma and Skin Cancer
(Desizned via Shutterstock)

By Gwyn Wright via SWNS

A new handheld device could identify skin cancers without the need for a painful biopsy, according to a new study.

Scientists say that the new tool could cut unnecessary biopsies in half and make it easier for doctors to diagnose cancer.

In recent years, the number of biopsies performed on American Medicare users has grown around four times faster than the number of cancers detected.

Around 30 benign bits of skin damage are now biopsied for every one cancer that is found using the painful procedure.

The process, during which doctors carve away small bits of tissue for lab testing, leaves patients with painful wounds that sometimes take weeks to heal.

The new device, being developed at Stevens Institute of Technology, uses millimeter-wave imaging, which is also used in airport security scanners, to scan a patient’s skin.

Healthy tissue reflects the waves differently to cancerous tissue, allowing cancers to be spotted.

To make the technology fit for clinical practice, the researchers used algorithms to fuse signals captured by different antennas into a single ultrahigh-bandwidth image.

This allows even the tiniest mole or blemish to be spotted in the high-resolution images.

The rays harmlessly penetrate around 2mm into human skin and the technology gives doctors a 3D map of scanned lesions.

In real world clinical visits to 71 people, a tabletop version of the technology could accurately distinguish between benign and malign skin lesions in just a few seconds.

The device could identify cancerous tissue with 97 percent sensitivity and 98 percent specificity, a similar rate to most hospital-grade diagnostic tools.

The tech delivers results in seconds, meaning it could one day be used instead of a magnifying dermatoscope to give accurate results at check-ups almost instantly- in turn allowing doctors to treat more patients.

Now, the researchers want to pack the team’s diagnostic kit onto an integrated circuit.
This step could soon allow functional handheld millimeter-wave diagnostic devices to be produced for as little as £80 ($100) a piece — a fraction of the cost of existing hospital-grade diagnostic equipment.

The team hope to bring their product to market within the next two years.

Dr. Negar Tavassolian, who helped develop the tool said: “We aren’t trying to get rid of biopsies, but we do want to give doctors additional tools and help them to make better decisions.

“There are other advanced imaging technologies that can detect skin cancers, but they’re big, expensive machines that aren’t available in the clinic.

“We’re creating a low-cost device that’s as small and as easy to use as a cellphone, so we can bring advanced diagnostics within reach for everyone.

“The path forward is clear, and we know what we need to do.

“After this proof of concept, we need to miniaturize our technology, bring the price down, and bring it to the market.”

The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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