Home Device For Detecting Breast Abnormalities

August 4, 2010

A new hand held device for women to use at home as part of their regular monthly self examination can actually view the inside of their breasts to detect abnormalities and cancers. Developed in the UK, is now commercially available, and could prove invaluable for early detection and particularly useful for women with a family history of breast cancer.

A trial recently took place at the symptomatic breast clinic at Sunderland City Hospital which involved 300 women and was designed to assess whether a UK device, Breastlight, could accurately detect abnormalities and cancers. It works by shining a very bright but harmless red LED light through breast tissue where veins and other blood vessels show up as dark lines, often referred to as the ‘map’ of the breast. This is normal, but if a woman detects other dark spots or shadows, this is generally an indication that there is an abnormality. Of course there may be nothing to worry about such as a benign lesion like a bruise or blood filled cyst or it may require further investigation

The researchers found that it could detect malignancies as small as 7 mm and presented this data at the European Institute of Oncology’s 12th Milan Breast Cancer Conference. confirms that Breastlight, a device for women to use at home when carrying out their breast health awareness routine, detects malignant tumours, picking up lesions as small as 7mm.

The women in the trial had all been referred by their G P for a breast assessment and they were examined with Breastlight before their standard clinical assessment. The findings were then compared to those seen with mammography, ultrasound and biopsy. Breastlight was highly effective as it:

• detected 12 out of 18 malignant tumours which were then confirmed as positive using biopsy (giving a sensitivity of 67%)

• correctly identified as negative 240 out of 282 breasts (giving a specificity of 85%)

• detected malignant tumours as small as 7mm (it is generally accepted that malignancies below 1.8cm are non-palpable)

• detected a number of variants of cancers regardless of age or density of breast tissue or menopausal status of women1

The researchers were impressed with the sensitivity and specificity of the Breastlight device though of course it should not in any way replace mammography but that can provide an early warning as part of an early warning screening routine as it can reliably pick up abnormal lumps which can be further investigated to assess whether benign or malignant. It could also be extremely useful for women who have confirmed recurrent benign cysts and find it difficult to examine themselves.

In addition to trial in Sunderland, Breastlight usage has been evaluated at-home in a User Study involving over 1,200 women that reported it encouraged breast examination, at recommended frequency levels, and gave women confidence in their breast examination. 80% of women said they felt more confident when using Breastlight in addition to their existing routine and it increased the frequency of examination considerably.

It is not intended to replace but to augment regular self examination, backed up by regular mammograms. You should find it in major Boots stores, online at www.breastlight.com or at www.boots.com with a recommended price of 84.99 – not cheap, but as an early warning system for cancer it could prove priceless.


Article by  


What do you think of this health article by ? Join the discussion...