How to use BREAST-i

The use of BREAST-i is very simply illustrated by the images here. Undress and in a darkened room, sit leaning slightly forward and place the BREAST-i lens underneath your breast. You can view each breast by either looking down directly or using a mirror, or both. Look at the upper (superior) surface of each breast, which should be uniformly bright except perhaps for a few darker lines from superficial blood vessels. Move the lens of BREAST-i around slowly to examine the entire breast.

woman using Breast-i
How BREAST-i is used in the home to inspect the breast.
using Breast-i in a mirror to inspect a breast
Look down at the breast or into a mirror.

Light from the high intensity LEDs in BREAST-i is scattered through the breast tissues. This will normally reveal patterns of darker blood vessels while the skin is seen as a fairly uniform pink or reddish colour. The nipple is usually seen as a small dark circle. The areolar is a circular area around the nipple and is usually darker than the skin over the rest of the breast (in African women it can be very dark).

Breast-i showing a dark area on the breast
A dark area in the upper part of the left breast.
Breast-i showing a faint dark patch on the breast
A faint dark patch around enlarged blood vessels.

If you examine your breasts once per month with BREAST-i, you'll become familiar with their appearance. Should any changes be noticed these may indicate presence of a lump or other breast condition. Once you are familiar with BREAST-i you can vary the views and examine the tail of your breast. Look for a dark area anywhere in the breast which wasn't there before. Sometimes there are enlarged blood vessels which may produce a small dark patch (which can sometimes be faint) around them. If you see either of these, visit a GP for advice and examination, and referral to hospital if necessary.

diagram showing Breast-i usage
Light from BREAST-i is scattered through the breast and absorbed by angiogenesis if present.
Breast-i being used by a doctor
The examination with BREAST-i can also be carried out by a doctor or surgeon.

What you will see with BREAST-i

Normal breast image
Fig A: image captured with BREAST-i showing a normal breast with veins, appearing mainly bright in contrast to the following image.
Breast with mass
Fig B: breast with mass about 4cm x 2cm recorded using BREAST-i. The dark area is caused by angiogenesis, and the blood vessels feeding it are obvious.

A typical normal breast is shown in Fig A and another with a lump (pathology) in Fig B (both images courtesy of Mammocare Ghana). Check your breasts once per month and if any dark areas appear which were absent previously, go to a GP and ask for a clinical examination and an opinion. The test is not diagnostic because dark shadows can appear not only because of the presence of a cancer, but also due to a blood-filled cyst or bruising. The images produced by BREAST-i remain the same over a long period of years, unless a lump develops.

A nurse or doctor can also use BREAST-i provided that they can darken their consulting room. A weak red light can be kept switched on in the corner of the room without hindering the examination.

Presently, photographic records are only done to provide examples for the user booklet. Photography of the breast during an examination can be quite difficult because only a small percentage of the incident light from BREAST-i penetrates the breast tissues, so this requires a long exposure (typically half a second) and any movement of the breast will blur the image.

BREAST-i instruction booklet

woman reading Breast-i booklet
user instructions for BREAST-i

Once you've read the instruction booklet you'll find that BREAST-i is easy to use. Note that if you use too high a light intensity setting, shadows caused by the presence of any lump may disappear. Always use the minimum brightness necessary to illuminate the breast.

Videos introducing BREAST-i

Brief introduction to BREAST-i.
An interview with Dr Frank Ghartey on Ghana's Joy News, introducing BREAST-i.