It's fitting that the news comes during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month — welcome, too — as a professor at the University of Manchester in the U.K. has developed a breast cancer scanner the size of a lunchbox.
While Professor Zhipeng Wu's device may look little more than a bowl on top of a coffee can, it packs in all the necessary electronics to identify trouble spots quick and easy using radio waves. The applications of this are pretty awesome, considering it could be used in the developing world where the necessary facilities to carry out a scan are few and far between, or even allow women to regularly monitor themselves at home.
The portable scanner even has quite the leg up on the usual X-ray mammography equipment, as the lunchbox-sized unit performs tests in real-time, meaning it could spy a complication that a larger X-ray unit would miss. What's more, it doesn't deal the large dose of radiation a typical mammogram does, which is important for women who are in the later stages of breast cancer. It can do all this without the gels and the setup of a mammogram — all a woman has to do is simply dip her breast into the scanning cup, even while still wearing her bra. Sizes shouldn't matter, as the cup can be filled with any ol' liquid (such as water, oil, milk or the like) and still complete the scan.
While the portable scanner can help identify both malignant and benign growths, the real benefit is that it allows doctors to observe where a more thorough, more invasive procedure may be necessary in a safe manner before having to risk a series of mammograms.