Optical palpation for the visualization of tumor in human breast tissue

Wes M. Allen*, Philip Wijesinghe, Benjamin F. Dessauvagie, Bruce Latham, Christobel M. Saunders, Brendan F. Kennedy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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Accurate and effective removal of tumor in one operation is an important goal of breast-conserving surgery. However, it is not always achieved. Surgeons often utilize manual palpation to assess the surgical margin and/or the breast cavity. Manual palpation, however, is subjective and has relatively low resolution. Here, we investigate a tactile imaging technique, optical palpation, for the visualization of tumor. Optical palpation generates maps of the stress at the surface of tissue under static preload compression. Stress is evaluated by measuring the deformation of a contacting thin compliant layer with known mechanical properties using optical coherence tomography. In this study, optical palpation is performed on 34 freshly excised human breast specimens. Wide field-of-view (up to ~46 × 46 mm) stress images, optical palpograms, are presented from four representative specimens, demonstrating the capability of optical palpation to visualize tumor. Median stress reported for adipose tissue, 4 kPa, and benign dense tissue, 8 kPa, is significantly lower than for invasive tumor, 60 kPa. In addition, we demonstrate that optical palpation provides contrast consistent with a related optical technique, quantitative micro-elastography. This study demonstrates that optical palpation holds promise for visualization of tumor in breast-conserving surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere201800180
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biophotonics
Issue number1
Early online date30 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • Breast-conserving surgery
  • Optical coherence tomography
  • Optical palpation
  • Tactile imaging
  • Tumor margin assessment


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