Researchers are developing a low-cost handheld device that could cut the rate of unnecessary skin biopsies in half and give dermatologists and other frontline physicians easy access to laboratory-grade cancer diagnostics.
The team’s device uses millimeter-wave imaging — the same technology used in airport security scanners — to scan a patient’s skin. Healthy tissue reflects millimeter-wave rays differently than cancerous tissue, so it’s theoretically possible to spot cancers by monitoring contrasts in the rays reflected from the skin.
The researchers used algorithms to fuse signals captured by multiple antennas into a single ultrahigh-bandwidth image, reducing noise and quickly capturing high-resolution images of even the tiniest mole or blemish.
Other advanced imaging technologies can detect skin cancers, but they’re big, expensive machines that aren’t available in the clinic. The researchers are creating a low-cost device that’s as small and as easy to use as a cellphone so that they can bring advanced diagnostics (skin biopsies) within reach for everyone.
Because the team’s technology delivers results in seconds, it could one day be used instead of a magnifying dermatoscope in routine checkups, giving highly accurate results almost instantly. Consequently, doctors can integrate accurate diagnostics into regular checkups and ultimately treat more patients.