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New and Improved treatments

One-stop Surgery: Real-time Imaging to Improve Breast Cancer Surgery Outcomes

Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research Dr

Qi Fang

Project Description: Optical elastography (technology to map the mechanical properties of tissue) is a relatively new method to improve breast cancer surgery that holds promise for improving patient outcomes. However, to date, this technique requires equipment that is bulky, expensive, and difficult to use. This bioengineering project will develop new optical elastography equipment to make the technology more accessible, affordable, reliable and useful. 

Why This Work is Needed: Current surgical techniques for breast-conserving surgery rely on the surgeon’s sense of touch, as cancer often feels stiffer than the surrounding tissue. However, this method can be inaccurate, leading to around 25% of women requiring a second surgery to remove remnants of the tumour. Optical elastography uses light to determine how stiff the tumour is, helping surgeons to ensure complete tumour removal in a one-stop surgery. 

Expected Outcomes: This study will develop a wireless, handheld, easy-to-use optical elastography probe. This device will improve the ability of surgeons to safely remove all of the tumour at the initial surgery, reducing the need for follow-up procedures and minimising treatment delays due to repeat surgery. As the probe is cost-effective and portable, it has the potential to be widely used in rural and remote areas, improving equity of access to optimal treatment across Australia. 

Project Details  

Surgery, including mastectomy and breast-conserving surgery, is the main treatment for patients with early breast cancer. Breast-conserving surgery is preferred by the majority of patients as it preserves much of the appearance and sensation of the breast. However, the main disadvantage of breast-conserving surgery is that approximately 1 in 4 patients require a second surgery, due to residual cancer missed in the initial surgery and detected afterwards in the margins. 

The project, led by Dr Qi Fang from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, will use technology developed for cost-effective digital cameras to design a real-time cancer imaging probe. This will help surgeons to completely remove all cancerous tissue during one single operation. The final device will be wireless, portable and easy to use. Importantly, it will also be more cost-effective than current elastography equipment, leading to the potential for wider uptake in lower resource settings. 

For patients, accurate real-time cancer detection using this new device is likely to significantly reduce the chances they will require a second surgery, mitigating psychological, physical and financial costs. This can also help reduce the likelihood of delays to further treatment, reducing distress to patients, and improving their treatment experiences and outcomes. 

Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research Dr

Qi Fang