Ultrasound is used for breast cancer detection as a technique complementary to mammography, the standard screening method. Current practice is based on reflectivity images obtained with conventional instruments by an operator who positions the ultrasonic transducer by hand over the patient’s body. It is a non-ionizing radiation, pain-free and not expensive technique that provides a higher contrast than mammography to discriminate among fluid-filled cysts and solid masses, especially for dense breast tissue. However, results are quite dependent on the operator’s skills, images are difficult to reproduce, and state-of-the-art instruments have a limited resolution and contrast to show micro-calcifications and to discriminate between lesions and the surrounding tissue. In spite of their advantages, these factors have precluded the use of ultrasound for screening. This work approaches the ultrasound-based early detection of breast cancer with a different concept. A ring array with many elements to cover 360◦ around a hanging breast allows obtaining repeatable and operator-independent coronal slice images. Such an arrangement is well suited for multi-modal imaging that includes reflectivity, compounded, tomography, and phase coherence images for increased specificity in breast cancer detection. Preliminary work carried out with a mechanical emulation of the ring array and a standard breast phantom shows a high resolution and contrast, with an artifact-free capability provided by phase coherence processing.
To design breast ultrasound scanning systems or to test new imaging methods, various computer models are used to simulate the acoustic wave field propagation through a breast. The computer models vary in complexity depending on the applied approximations. The objective of this paper is to investigate how the applied approximations affect the resulting wave field. In particular, we investigate the importance of taking three-dimensional (3-D) spatial variations in the compressibility, volume density of mass, and attenuation into account. In addition, we compare four 3-D solution methods: a full-wave method, a Born approximation method, a parabolic approximation method, and a ray-based method. Results show that, for frequencies below 1 MHz, the amplitude of the fields scattering off the compressibility or density contrasts are at least 24 dB higher than the amplitude of the fields scattering off the attenuation contrasts. The results also show that considering only speed of sound as a contrast is a valid approximation. In addition, it is shown that the pressure field modeled with the full-wave method is more accurate than the fields modeled using the other three methods. Finally, the accuracy of the full-wave method is location independent whereas the accuracy of the other methods strongly depends on the point of observation.
The paper presents an analysis of the results of ultrasound transmission tomography (UTT) imaging of the internal structure of a breast elastography phantom used for biopsy training, and compares them with the results of CT, MRI and, conventional US imaging; the results of the phantom examination were the basis for the analysis of UTT method resolution. The obtained UTT, CT and MRI images of the CIRS Model 059 breast phantom structure show comparable (in the context of size and location) heterogeneities inside it. The UTT image of distribution of the ultrasound velocity clearly demonstrates continuous changes of density. The UTT image of derivative of attenuation coefficient in relation to frequency is better for visualising sharp edges, and the UTT image of the distribution of attenuation coefficient visualises continuous and stepped changes in an indirect way. The inclusions visualized by CT have sharply delineated edges but are hardly distinguishable from the phantom gel background even with increased image contrast. MRI images of the studied phantom relatively clearly show inclusions in the structure. Ultrasonography images do not show any diversification of the structure of the phantom. The obtained examination results indicate that, if the scanning process is accelerated, ultrasound transmission tomography method can be successfully used to detect and diagnose early breast malignant lesions. Ultrasonic transmission tomography imaging can be applied in medicine for diagnostic examination of women’s breasts and similarly for X-ray computed tomography, while eliminating the need to expose patients to the harmful ionising radiation.
Texture of ultrasound images contain information about the properties of examined tissues. The analysis of statistical properties of backscattered ultrasonic echoes has been recently successfully applied to differentiate healthy breast tissue from the benign and malignant lesions. We propose a novel procedure of tissue characterization based on acquiring backscattered echoes from the heated breast. We have proved that the temperature increase inside the breast modifies the intensity, spectrum of the backscattered signals and the probability density function of envelope samples. We discuss the differences in probability density functions in two types of tissue regions, e.g. cysts and the surrounding glandular tissue regions. Independently, Pennes bioheat equation in heterogeneous breast tissue was used to describe the heating process. We applied the finite element method to solve this equation. Results have been compared with the ultrasonic predictions of the temperature distribution. The results confirm the possibility of distinguishing the differences in thermal and acoustical properties of breast cyst and surrounding glandular tissues.