In 1929 an American Surgeon, Max Cutler, was the first to show that breast cancer could be demonstrated by transmission of light through the tissues.
A subsequent study by Dr David J Watmough showed that the optical images of a cancer of the breast arose principally because of the associated angiogenesis (new blood vessels stimulated to develop by the cancer). The chaotic mass of vessels surrounding the tumour supply oxygen and nutrients to the cancer and permit accelerated tumour growth.
Red blood cells strongly absorb light at about 550nm (the absorption bands of oxyhaemoglobin). The degree of light absorption is determined by the number of blood cells per unit volume of breast tissue. Cysts appear translucent whereas blood filled cysts, haematomas and neoplastic tumours appear opaque.
Initial studies on the breast illumination method using earlier versions of the product were carried out in the 1990s. Clinical results for the technique were very encouraging in terms of distinguishing carcinomas from benign breast lesions. However the sensitivity was lower than that achieved with mammography and therefore the technique was not recommended as an alternative to established clinical screening methods.
Recent advances in LED technology have enabled PWB Health to develop the Breastlight, an affordable, compact device for use by women in the home.
Breastlight is designed to be a valuable aid to a women’s personal breast awareness. In particular it can be of great assistance to women for whom palpation is not an effective way to identify suspicious masses – for example those with fibrous breast tissue.