Breast cancer detection using enhanced IRI-numerical engine and inverse heat transfer modeling: model description and clinical validation



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Scientific Reports


Effective treatment of breast cancer relies heavily on early detection. Routine annual mammography is a widely accepted screening technique that has resulted in significantly improving the survival rate. However, it suffers from low sensitivity resulting in high false positives from screening. To overcome this problem, adjunctive technologies such as ultrasound are employed on about 10% of women recalled for additional screening following mammography. These adjunctive techniques still result in a significant number of women, about 1.6%, who undergo biopsy while only 0.4% of women screened have cancers. The main reason for missing cancers during mammography screening arises from the masking effect of dense breast tissue. The presence of a tumor results in the alteration of temperature field in the breast, which is not influenced by the tissue density. In the present paper, the IRI-Numerical Engine is presented as an adjunct for detecting cancer from the surface temperature data. It uses a computerized inverse heat transfer approach based on Pennes's bioheat transfer equations. Validation of this enhanced algorithm is conducted on twenty-three biopsy-proven breast cancer patients after obtaining informed consent under IRB protocol. The algorithm correctly predicted the size and location of cancerous tumors in twenty-four breasts, while twenty-two contralateral breasts were also correctly predicted to have no cancer (one woman had bilateral breast cancer). The tumors are seen as highly perfused and metabolically active heat sources that alter the surface temperatures that are used in heat transfer modeling. Furthermore, the results from this study with twenty-four biopsy-proven cancer cases indicate that the detection of breast cancer is not affected by breast density. This study indicates the potential of the IRI-Numerical Engine as an effective adjunct to mammography. A large scale clinical study in a statistically significant sample size is needed before integrating this approach in the current protocol.

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