Can this pen detect cancer?

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A pen that can detect cancer and may end the need of biopsies has been developed by a team from the University of Washington and several other US universities and hospitals.

The pen detects cancer by using ‘dual-axis confocal microscopy’ to detect cancer cells up to 0.5mm below the surface of tissue.

This enables doctors to tell if a tumour is cancerous without the need for a biopsy.

biopsy is a medical test commonly performed by a surgeon, interventional radiologist, or an interventional cardiologist involving extraction of sample cells or tissues for examination to determine the presence or extent of a disease.

The ‘pen’ may in the near future be found in operating theatre, helping surgeons with a clearer indication of when their work is complete.

The microscope, as small as a pen, could help brain surgeons more accurately detect and remove cancerous cells, preventing further neurological damaging.

The device would allow surgeons to quickly check if tissue was cancerous, something that isn’t currently possible.

A senior author of the paper in the journal Optics Express Jonathan Liu, said

“Surgeons don’t have a very good way of knowing when they’re done cutting out a tumour. They’re using their sense of sight, their sense of touch, pre-operative images of the brain – and oftentimes it’s pretty subjective.”

A miniature microscope that can “see” cancerous cells and tell surgeons where to stop cutting tissue.

Researchers hope the pen will be used to detect and screen for cancer, as well as being introduced into surgeries or clinical procedures.

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