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Exeter University is in the forefront of cutting edge technology which will make an instant diagnosis of potential breast cancers.
Up to 90 per cent of abnormalities found during routine mammograms prove to be benign...but that's after the woman has gone through weeks of anxious waiting and a needle biopsy.
The new technique which is still being developed and may not be in gneral use for a decade, would give an instant diagnosis after a breast screening, saving both the emotional trauma and treatment time. It would also save the NHS money by cutting out the need for a tier of referrals.
The laser technique known as Spatially Offset Raman Spectroscopy (SORS) allows non-see-through objects such as tissue to be analysed deep beneath their surface, without them being cut open. The technique is already being used in security scanners to detect liquid explosives and at the end of last year.
Professor Nicholas Stone the project's Principal Investigator from the University of Exeter, said: "This technique, if applied at mammography could have a huge impact on those 75,000 patients a year in the UK having to return for additional biopsies, with associated anxiety, when they are found to have nothing wrong".
Professor Pavel Matousek, inventor of the technique, said: "It is very gratifying to see this technology, originally developed on our large facilities in the Central Laser Facility being applied in so many different ways that will have such an impact on society. As well as developing it for future breast cancer diagnosis and for detecting counterfeit drugs we expect, in the future, to see the technology at airports scanning liquid explosives".
The projects funded will develop innovative technology which aims to improve the diagnosis and treatment of serious illnesses including cancer, improve patient outcomes, and help severely disabled people.