iKnife: New surgical knife detects endometrial cancer within seconds

Source: The post is based on the article “New surgical knife detects endometrial cancer within seconds” published in The Hindu on 13th January 2023.

What is the News?

Scientists at Imperial College London, UK have proved that a modern surgical knife dubbed iKnife can “smell tumours”, effectively detecting womb or endometrial cancer within seconds. The breakthrough could enable thousands of women to get an earlier cancer diagnosis.

What is Womb or Endometrial cancer?

Womb cancer is cancer that affects the womb. The womb (uterus) is where a baby grows during pregnancy. Most womb cancer usually starts in the lining of the womb (endometrium), this is also known as endometrial cancer.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, womb or endometrial cancer is the 6th most commonly occurring cancer among people with uteruses. 

At least 417,000 new cases of endometrial cancer were recorded in 2020 globally. In India, at least 26,000 cases of endometrial cancer were recorded in 2020.

One of the main symptoms of this cancer is postmenopausal bleeding, with the average age of diagnosis at around 60 years.

What have researchers found to detect womb or endometrial cancer?

The researchers found that a surgical tool called iKnife could accurately detect the presence of endometrial cancer. The iKnife is already being used to spot breast and brain cancer.

How does iKnife works?

The iknife uses electric currents on biopsy tissue and then analyzes the vapourised aerosols from the tissue in a mass spectrometer to give real-time information about activity in the tissue. It essentially ‘smells’ the tissue for cancerous cells

The study noted that the iKnife reliably diagnosed endometrial cancer in tissue within seconds with an accuracy of 89%. 

This would greatly minimize the delays faced by patients who wait for a normal histopathological diagnosis of womb cancer.


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