A revolutionary breast-screening system has been created by scientists in Britain that uses anti-landmine technology to detect cancer in seconds.
The pain-free radio-wave scanner is safer than traditional mammogram X-rays, which carry a radiation risk and are used on hundreds of thousands of women every year.
Experts believe the new device, which is also cheaper, can be used on women of any age, unlike the current technology.
It is expected the system, called Maria, will be in widespread use within five years in GPs’ surgeries and clinics.
Women under 50 are not routinely screened for breast cancer partly because of the risks from regular doses of ionising radiation from an early age.
They also have denser breast tissue, which makes it harder to detect tumours using X-rays.
Using radio waves makes it easier to find problems in all tissue.
But the most appealing aspect for women is pain-free examinations, with an end to having the breast squeezed between two X-ray plates.
Instead, the breast is held in a ceramic cup-shaped scanner while data are transferred to a computer within eight seconds to produce a 3D image.
Conventional screening uses low-dose X-rays and two scans are taken of the breast, during which the technician has to shelter from the radiation.
It takes an average of one minute for a radiologist to examine a case, but this can be more than doubled if another opinion is sought or the X-ray is difficult to interpret.
Women are usually informed of the results within two weeks.
Developed by Micrima, a company that began at Bristol University, the Maria technology is based on a landmine-detection project that was able to locate non-metallic explosives in soil, the Daily Mail reported.
In the same way, the Maria system can find dangerous ‘hot spots’ in breasts using scanning signals from radio waves.