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New robot could help diagnose breast cancer early

Breast Examination device George Jenkinson

4 October 2023

A device has been created that could carry out Clinical Breast Examinations (CBE).

The manipulator, designed by a team at the University of Bristol and based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, is able to apply very specific forces over a range similar to forces used by human examiners and can detect lumps using sensor technology at larger depths than before.

This could revolutionise how women monitor their breast health by giving them access to safe electronic CBEs, located in easily accessible places, such as pharmacies and health centres, which provide accurate results.    

Precision, repeatability and accuracy are of paramount importance in these tactile medical examinations to ensure favourable patient outcomes. A range of automatic and semi-automatic devices have been proposed to aid with optimising this task, particularly for difficult to detect and hard to reach situations such as during minimally invasive surgery.

The research team included a mix of postgraduate and undergraduate researchers, supervised by Dr Antonia Tzemanaki from Bristol Robotics Laboratory. Lead author George Jenkinson explained: “There are conflicting ideas about how useful carrying out Clinical Breast Examinations (CBE) are for the health outcomes of the population.

George added: “We hope that the research can contribute to and complement the arsenal of techniques used to diagnose breast cancer, and to generate a large amount of data associated with it that may be useful in trying to identify large scale trends that could help diagnose breast cancer early."

George Jenkinson and Dr Antonia Tzemanaki are part of the Bristol Cancer Network, supported by Elizabeth Blackwell Institute. 


‘A robotIc Radial palpatIon mechaniSm for breast examination (IRIS)’ by George Jenkinson et al which was presented at the RO-MAN conference.

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