UW researcher finds new, simple way to screen for breast cancer

Researchers at the University of Waterloo have come up with a new and inexpensive way to screen for breast cancer, which eliminates exposure to radiation. Omar Ramahi hopes this new tech will become the first step in breast cancer screening.

Technology uses micro-waves and AI to detect abnormalities in the breast, eliminating exposure to radiation

Omar Ramahi and his team have developed a new and simple way to screen for breast cancer. He hopes his technology will allow women to get screen regularly. (Carmen Groleau/ CBC)

Omar Ramahi and his team at the University of Waterloo have come up with a new and simple way to screen for breast cancer that could be coming to the market in the near future.

A professor of electrical and computer engineering by trade, Ramahi and his team have created a prototype that uses micro-waves and artificial intelligence to detect abnormalities in the breast within minutes.

Ramahi hopes the device will allow women to screen for breast cancer regularly and detect it sooner.

"If women can screen for breast cancer regularly, it's a major game changer. Maybe not every year, but every month," he said.

Simple to use

The screening process is simple, Ramahi said.

A woman lays face down in what looks like a massage bed with a section near the middle cut out. A sensor underneath then scans each breast separately and within a few minutes the results are in. 

Green means everything is ok. Red means it detected an abnormality, Ramahi explained. From there, the patient can be referred for further tests.

Ramahi said it cost him and his team less than $5,000 to build the prototype. Its software can also be uploaded to any Microsoft laptop. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

Ramahi said he hopes the device will be straightforward enough for any health care provider to use.

The prototype is also less harmful than traditional ways of breast cancer screening, Ramahi said, because it eliminates exposure to radiation. 

"Our device uses a tiny, tiny fraction of what our cell phones emit," he said.

Ramahi and his team were able to build the device with less than $5,000 and its software can be uploaded to any Microsoft laptop. The versatility and affordability could help bring the technology to developing countries.

"We want this to be available to low cost clinics, and hospitals, where a woman can go and get a test in less than 10 minutes," he said. 

Ramahi and his team hope to start clinical trials in the next six months. They are also working with several medical establishments, including Grand River Hospital and a cancer research centre in Buffalo. 


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