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The endo-microscope, which is less that 1mm in diameter – about the width of 25 human hairs – can move through small body spaces and produce super-fast images from inside the tissue.
Dr Khushi Vyas and colleagues at Imperial College, London, now hope it can identify cancerous cells the size of just a hundredth of a millimetre at a much faster rate than traditional methods.
The team behind the device. says it will help reduce the need for follow-up operations to remove cells that previously evaded detection.
Another boost is the microscope will also help surgeons leave more of a patient’s normal breast tissue as they remove the cancer.
The microscope generates up to 120 frames a second, which, researchers say, will help spot suspicious tissue around tumours very quickly and accurately.
Dr Vyas said: “Our aim is to proceed to clinical trials with a view to the system becoming available for deployment in around five years.”
The development of the pioneering endo-microscope is being supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
Dr Kedar Pandya, from the council, said: “By reducing the time it takes to identify cancerous cells and improve the accuracy of imaging, the endo-microscope developed by Dr Vyas and the team could benefit patients and the NHS by reducing waiting lists.”
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