Researchers at the University of Twente, the Netherlands, have developed a breast cancer research robot that is faster and more accurate than their previous model, which at the time was the most accurate 3D-printed biopsy robot.
The new breast cancer research robot – Sunram 5 – is driven by air-pressure cylinders. The new development is more compact, which means it can be attached to the current breast compression system in various orientations and can therefore reach any area in the breast more accurately.
Other new features include so-called ‘dual-speed motors’, which allow for both faster and more accurate movements, meaning that the accuracy of the robot has improved to 0.1mm and the robot can move from the start to its target location in about 10 seconds.
Another added element is a safety mechanism that has been designed to retract the needle from the breast when the controller measures a mains voltage or air pressure failure.
Breast cancer information
As mentioned by AlphaGalileo, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women. If a lesion (a piece of suspicious tissue) is found during the screening, further research is required to determine whether the tissue is benign or malignant.
It is possible to retrieve a piece of tissue by placing a needle in the breast and navigating it towards the lesion. The tissue is sent to a pathologist, who can determine the nature of the tissue. This procedure is known as a biopsy.
Accuracy of the needle, however, is essential for a biopsy. If the needle is in the wrong position, it is possible for a lesion to be found benign, while it is actually malignant. Cancer treatments that use the needle tip to destroy cancer cells also benefit from this accurate positioning.
Robotics in healthcare
Currently, MRI scanners are the best equipment for locating lesions. However, this quality is not fully utilised, since needle placement is performed manually. Robotics, specifically the Sunram 5 can play an important role here. As the robot is entirely made of plastic, the MRIs scanner’s strong magnetic field will not affect it, meaning it is one of the only robots that can be used alongside an MRI scanner.
Other examples of robots in healthcare include a recent development by researchers at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, UK. As we have previously reported, this new development allows surgeons to put joint fractures back together using a minimally invasive approach.
These different approaches to surgery allow for a more effective healthcare system, with improved accuracy and improved patient outcomes.