The image shows a scan of a human breast performed by photoacoustic computed tomography (or PACT) – a new imaging technology that may one day replace the typical X-ray mammograms that women over the age of 40 routinely undergo to check for the presence of breast cancer. Regular X-ray mammograms not only expose women to doses of radiation and are painful to endure, but they also don’t work well in women with particularly dense breast tissue – because the dense tissue can have the same appearance as a cancer. PACT, by contrast, is relatively painless, uses a near-infrared laser instead of X-rays and produces a detailed high-resolution picture of the vasculature rather than the tissue of the breast. This avoids the problems associated with tissue density, yet still enables detection of tumours, which are commonly associated with abnormal networks of blood vessels.
Written by Ruth Williams
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