GPUs deliver mammogram-like breast scans in 20 minutes

Posted by Theo Valich, Wolfgang Gruener

Santa Clara (CA) – Taking annual mammograms is generally recommended for women with an age of 35 years and above. But these radiology procedures are inconvenient and can actually be painful, since the breast needs to be squeezed between two metal plates. TechniScan has developed a new method to scan a breast – a method that is based on the processing capability of GPUs to deliver 3D images, which could replace traditional mammograms one day. It is a fascinating example how we can take advantage of the enormous progress in technology to save lives.

We don’t really have to go into the seriousness of mammograms and their necessity. Breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. are actually among the highest in the world, affecting about 101 out of 100,000 women on average. According to current statistics, the breast cancer in 19 of those 101 women is fatal. Improving methods to detect cancer early is always a good thing and we were actually fascinated by a new and so far little known development in this specific area.

TechniScan Medical Systems says it has developed GPU-assisted technology called UltraSoundCT, which uses ultrasound to scan a breast. For a patient, this approach is much more comfortable than a mammogram, since there is no ionization radiation and no need for the compression of a breast. On the technology side, UltraSoundCT produce two unique images of the breast; one based on the speed of sound and one based on the attenuation of sound.

The computer system uses four GeForce 8-series graphics cards to produce coronal image slices of the breast that will be exported in DICOM 3.0 format as well as full 3D views of a breast. TechniScan says that it takes just 20 minutes to render the images, compared to several hours that would be required on a CPU. According to the company, the ultrasound scan can prove be more effective in cases of dense breasts. Radiologists of a local Chicago hospital told TG Daily that they would also prefer to use this system over a mammogram if a patient has breast implants – which decrease the likelihood the lumps are detected.

TechniScan said that its UltraSoundCT images are “intended for use when post-mammographic evaluation is needed to resolve diagnostic ambiguity.” At this time the system is not offered to replace mammograms, but rather as a tool for additional evaluation.

“Mammography continues to be the industry standard for general breast cancer screening. However, a number of studies, including one national multicenter study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and the Avon Foundation through the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN), are underway to study the role of ultrasound in screening for breast cancer. These studies are evaluating whether breast ultrasound is a comparable, and in some cases, a preferable breast screening modality for women with dense breasts and at high risk for breast cancer,” TechniScan states on its website.

We usually write stories about performance of graphics cards, computers advancing communication, but anyone who knows someone who had to go through breast cancer, understand that this is technology is truly something special. Kudos to TechniScan for coming up with this technology that may be offering a safer and more comfortable way to scan one of most sensitive parts of the human body.

What a fascinating time we live in.