Medical Design Briefs News Online is kicking off Breast Cancer Awareness Month with new optical imaging technology developed at Tufts University School of Engineering, Medford, MA, that may provide doctors with new ways of both identifying breast cancer and monitoring individual patients' response to initial treatment of the disease.

The non-invasive technology uses near infrared (NIR) light to scan breast tissue, and then applies an algorithm to interpret that information. Differences in light absorption allow identification of water, fats, and oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor tissue, the primary structures in breast tissue.

Because it does not use ionizing radiation, the NIR technique can be applied multiple times over a short period without risk of radiation exposure, and can obtain functional real-time images of metabolic changes, such as levels of hemoglobin concentration and oxygenation. Optical mammography is also more comfortable than traditional mammograms.