"Virtual breast" will increase the effectiveness of cancer detection
According to the American Society of Oncologists, breast cancer ranks second after lung cancer in cancer mortality among women. Based on this, doctors strongly recommend that women undergo regular mammography. However, the problem is that only a small part of suspicious mammograms leads to the detection of cancer. In addition to unnecessary worries for the women themselves and their family members, this is accompanied by a large expenditure of time and money for additional examinations, including ultrasound examinations and biopsies.
A fairly effective alternative is the recently appeared method of ultrasound elastography, which allows detecting malignant tumors throughout the body, including in the mammary gland. This method allows you to visualize differences in tissue density, and malignant tumors are characterized by very high density. The images obtained using this method can leave no shadow of doubt, since a dense tumor on them looks to an experienced researcher like a "yolk against the background of protein in scrambled eggs." However, it is not always possible to achieve such accuracy and, depending on the competence of the specialist interpreting the image, the diagnostic accuracy can vary from 95% to 40% – less than with random guessing.
According to one of the developers of the ultrasound elastography method, Dr. Jingfeng Jiang, 40% is a very bad indicator, and the situation is partly due to the novelty of the technique and insufficient information.
To solve this problem, Jiang and his colleagues from Michigan Technological University (MTU) have developed a "virtual mammary gland", which is a three-dimensional computer phantom, which is a kind of simulator for doctors.
The image of the "virtual breast", which is part of the software developed to train the interpretation of images obtained using ultrasound elastography used to detect malignant tumors. Colors: white – skin, blue – Cooper's ligaments, red – fibroadenoma (benign tumor of fibrous connective and glandular tissues), green – breast ducts, orange – adipose tissue, burgundy – pathological change.To create a virtual breast, the authors used thousands of photographs of transverse (cross-sectional) sections of a woman's corpse obtained as part of the Visible Human Project.
This made it possible to reproduce the entire complexity of the organ, consisting of various types of tissues and anatomical structures, such as connective tissue ligaments and milk ducts.
Clinicians can practice searching for malignant tumors by applying virtual ultrasound to the virtual mammary gland and then studying the resulting images. The authors hope that in the future the software developed by them will be available to all specialists in need of such training.
The presentation of A Virtual Breast Elastography Phantom Lab Using Open Source Software is presented at the Symposium on Ultrasound Technology, held on September 3-6 in Chicago by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).