An imaging technique that NASA uses to inspect space shuttles can now be used to predict the gravity of tissue damage a breast cancer patient might experience while undergoing radiation therapy.
Scientists at Rush University Medical Center, who studied the space agency's 3D thermal tomography (3DTT) technique in radiation oncology, said initial data of their research showed the radiation induced skin of patients changes many days before the development of skin reactions at the treated place.
"This exciting result bodes well for the clinical utility of this technique (3DTT) in predicting the severity of a skin reaction before it occurs," said Alan Coon, primary author of the study.
Approximately 80 per cent of breast cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment develop acute skin reactions. The reaction at times could be severe enough, leading to treatment interruptions.
"As reactions usually occur from 10-14 days after the beginning of therapy, if we could predict skin reactions sooner we may be able to offer preventative treatment to maximise effectiveness and minimise interruption of radiation treatment," said Katherine Griem, an oncology professor.
3DTT is a noninvasive thermal imaging process which measures the thermal effusivity of a material -- material's ability to exchange heat with its surroundings.
The finding of the study were presented at the American Society for Radiation Oncology's annual meeting in Chicago recently.