UK: NHS considers using 'metal detector'-like breast cancer probe

Edited By: Manas Joshi
New Delhi Updated: May 17, 2022, 07:47 PM(IST)

Image for representation Photograph:( Reuters )

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To detect the spread of the cancer using the Sentimag probe, a magnetised liquid (Megtrace) is injected in the tissue to be probed. The liquid gets absorbed in the cancerous tissue. The probe then detects location

Breast cancer affects millions of women worldwide. UK's National Health Service (NHS) may introduce a new probe that may help in detecting and treating breast cancer that might have spread.

The detector, 'noisy' as described by BBC, works in a similar manner a metal detector does.

To detect the spread of the cancer using the Sentimag probe, a magnetised liquid (Megtrace) is injected in the tissue to be probed. The liquid gets absorbed in the cancerous tissue. The probe then detects location under the skin where the liwuid is accumulated. This gives an idea about where the cancer may have been seeded.

Use of the Sentimag probe has been included in draft guidance recommended to the NHS.

What may make this probe effective is that once injected, it follows the route cancerous cells are likely to take. The magnetised liquid gets absorbed in body's lymphatic system and get accumulate around cancerous growths. The liquid contains iron oxide, which is magnetic.

"This promising research could provide a new tool for our scientists to track and slow the spread of breast cancer, the most common cancer in the UK," said UK Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid. He was quoted by the BBC.

As per data with the World Health Organisation (WHO), 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the year 2020 alone. There were 6,85,000 deaths globally in that year due to breast cancer.

WHO says that by the end of year 2020, there were 7.8 million women alive who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 5 years before that.

"Approximately half of breast cancers develop in women who have no identifiable breast cancer risk factor other than gender (female) and age (over 40 years).  Certain factors increase the risk of breast cancer including increasing age, obesity, harmful use of alcohol, family history of breast cancer, history of radiation exposure, reproductive history (such as age that menstrual periods began and age at first pregnancy), tobacco use and postmenopausal hormone therapy," says WHO.

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