Diagnose breast cancer with 3D printed breast phantoms

Published on September 11, 2018 by Michelle J.
3D printed breast phantoms

A team of researchers from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of Maryland in the United States announced the development of a new 3D printing software tool. A tool that can help in the creation of 3D printed breast phantoms. These models, fully adapted to the morphology of the patient, could improve the detection and treatment of breast cancer.

According to Cancer Research in the UK, more than 90% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer at an earlier stage survive the disease for at least 5 years. This is due in part to the use of breast phantoms instead of breast tissue. The phantoms are used to test mammography devices to better diagnose and treat cancer. Thanks to 3D technologies, it seems that American researchers have created tailor-made solutions, more adapted to the specific morphology of each patient. An initiative that echoes 3D printed mammary prostheses by the South African company iMedTech Group. As well as when researchers in the Netherlands created the world’s smallest, most accurate 3D printed biopsy robot for use in detecting breast cancer.

mammary ghosts

3D printed prostheses

3D printed models to better detect breast cancer

US researchers say they have developed open source software that can create 3D printed phantoms. They could replicate the anatomical variability of actual breasts, including varying densities, heterogeneous structures, architectural distortions, and benign and malignant lesions. All details crucial when possibly diagnosing cancer.

Andreu Badal, a physicist at the FDA, says that phantoms do not accurately represent the shape of the patient’s breast. Even if they avoid exposure to unnecessary mammograms. Faced with this obstacle, the researchers developed an open source software, called the mammo-replicator. A software that would convert standard 2D mammograms into precise 3D virtual models. These could then be printed in 3D, as so called 3D printed breast phantoms.

mammary ghosts

Models printed in 3D (photo credits: Andreu Badal)

Using a Stratasys Objet260 Connex3 printer, the research team would have printed one of the three mammary phantoms in about 10 hours. They found that mammograms made with these 3D printed phantoms showed results similar to the previous ones. This while offering a better texture of the glandular and adipose tissues found in the breast. The results are therefore encouraging and could lead to better diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. You can find more information in the Journal of Medical Imaging.

What do you think of these 3D printed breast phantoms? Can they help to better diagnose breast cancer? Let us know in a comment below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages! And remember to sign up for our free weekly Newsletter, to get all the latest news in 3D printing send straight to your inbox!

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