Photonics Reduces Waiting Time for Cancer Diagnosis

23 January 2018
Matter PR recently ran a media campaign to promote the work of a new device that aims to reduce the uncertainty and discomfort in breast cancer diagnosis, turning it into a ‘while you wait’ appointment.

The PAMMOTH (or, photoacoustic ultrasound mammoscopy for evaluating screening-detected abnormalities in the breast) combines both light and sound sensors to build up a 3D image of the suspected tumor.


A patient simply places their breast in a smooth hemispherical bowl lined with dozens of lasers and is scanned using ‘photoacoustics’, a combination of both photonics and ultrasound.

Reported by over 30 different media, our story reached over 2 million individuals worldwide. Coverage included key campaign targets such as The Engineer, Digital TrendsYahoo News, and even Fox News.

Current breast cancer diagnosis can be distressing and painful over a number of weeks.

Multiple stages can involve visiting a GP, being sent to a specialist for an x-ray mammogram, having an ultrasound, before undergoing a needle, a punch or a vacuum assisted biopsy, as well as placing one breast at a time between two metal plates in a painful clamp.

Current techniques to diagnose breast cancer such as x-ray mammography, ultrasound or MRI scans can sometimes fail to spot a tumor from healthy tissue or a benign abnormality, resulting in unnecessary biopsies being carried out.

‘False positives’, a result incorrectly indicating the presence of a disease, and unnecessary biopsies in breast cancer diagnosis are hotly contested topics among medical experts today. As well as the untold stress and discomfort experienced by women all over the world by unnecessary treatments, inefficient diagnoses have an extremely worrying cost implication.

Every year in the US alone, $4 billion is spent on false-positive mammograms and breast cancer over diagnosis among women ages 40-59, according to research published in Health Affairs. A similar picture is played out across Europe with millions of Euros being spent on unnecessary mammograms. Project coordinator Dr Srirang Manohar explains:

“A prime focus of the PAMMOTH project is to develop an imager and data analysis to be able to intervene at a very early stage. We need to be able to say whether a suspect lesion is good or bad. This technique would have a substantial impact upon the money spent on unnecessary biopsies, as well as to remove the trauma involved in a diagnosis for women around the world,” said Manohar.

The PAMMOTH team hopes to have a prototype ready for 2020 ready for completion in 2021.

This story was part of an ongoing Matter PR campaign on behalf of Photonics21 – the European Technology Platform (ETP) for photonics, a technology encompassing all of the products and processes around the emission, manipulation and detection of light. Photonics is integral to a wide range of industries that include the medical, healthcare, transport, manufacturing, and telecommunications sectors.