The combining of three imaging tools into one device may provide a new, minimally invasive approach to diagnosing early-stage ovarian cancer in high-risk women. According to the researchers, the new technique may be better than the current standard procedure of preemptively removing a woman’s ovaries.

Yi Yang, of the electrical and computer engineering department at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, and colleagues integrated optical coherence tomography (OCT), ultrasound (US), and photoacoustic imaging (PAI) to create a prototype endoscopy system for ovarian tissue characterization. As the researchers noted in Biomedical Optics Express (2011;2[9]:2551-2561;, ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of the gynecologic cancers because it is predominantly diagnosed in Stages III or IV due to the lack of reliable symptoms as well as the lack of effective screening techniques.

With OCT providing high-resolution subsurface imaging, pulse-echo US providing deeper tissue structure imaging, and PAI providing optical absorption contrast, the device correctly identified malignant tumors in both pig and human ovarian tissues. Yang’s group reported that the hybrid device was performed better than each modality alone in ovarian tissue characterization.

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Although the tissues used in these experiments had been surgically removed, the small (5 mm) diameter of the new imaging device makes possible the concept of inserting it into a small incision so that imaging could be performed in live patients.