Dielectric spectroscopy as a breast cancer detection method


The development and improvement of imaging modalities for the early detection of breast cancer remains an active area of research.  Due to their noninvasive nature, reduced system cost, and high potential for early detection of small tumors, breast cancer detection systems which rely on monitoring the electrical properties of the breast have gained attention in recent years.  We are conducting dielectric measurements on freshly excised breast tissue samples at Milwaukee area hospitals in an attempt to better classify the electrical properties of human breast tissue. Currently we have accumulated measurements on over 150 samples of breast tissue obtained from over 50 patients undergoing surgical mastectomy or breast biopsy procedures.  By using equipment and data analysis techniques developed in house by Professor Raicu and his group, i.e. an open ended coaxial probe1, an algorithm to separate electrode polarization contributions from the breast tissue contributions to the experimental data2, and a dispersion function3 used to simulate the experimentally obtained data, we are able to accurately parameterize the dielectric measurements of the highly complex excised breast tissue.   

When comparing breast tissue samples which later were confirmed to contain tumor regions to those deemed healthy by pathological examinations, we have observed a large differences in a number parameters used to describe the experimentally obtained breast tissue dielectric data.  Future work will involve accumulating enough data to determine if the difference between malignant and benign breast tumors is detectable using these methods. 

1.  Raicu V 1995 A Simple Theoretical and Practical Approach to Measuring Dielectric-Properties with an Open-Ended Coaxial Probe Meas. Sci. Technol. 6 410-4 

2.  Stoneman M R, Kosempa M, Gregory W D, Gregory C W, Marx J J, Mikkelson W, Tjoe J, and Raicu V 2007 Correction of electrode polarization contributions to the dielectric properties of normal and cancerous breast tissues at audio/radio frequencies Physics in Medicine and Biology 52 6589-6604 

3.  Raicu V 1999 Dielectric dispersion of biological matter: Model combining Debye-type and "universal" responses Phys. Rev. E 60 4677-80