Elastic moduli of normal and pathological human breast tissues: an inversion-technique-based investigation of 169 samples

Phys Med Biol. 2007 Mar 21;52(6):1565-76. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/52/6/002. Epub 2007 Feb 16.


Understanding and quantifying the mechanical properties of breast tissues has been a subject of interest for the past two decades. This has been motivated in part by interest in modelling soft tissue response for surgery planning and virtual-reality-based surgical training. Interpreting elastography images for diagnostic purposes also requires a sound understanding of normal and pathological tissue mechanical properties. Reliable data on tissue elastic properties are very limited and those which are available tend to be inconsistent, in part as a result of measurement methodology. We have developed specialized techniques to measure tissue elasticity of breast normal tissues and tumour specimens and applied them to 169 fresh ex vivo breast tissue samples including fat and fibroglandular tissue as well as a range of benign and malignant breast tumour types. Results show that, under small deformation conditions, the elastic modulus of normal breast fat and fibroglandular tissues are similar while fibroadenomas were approximately twice the stiffness. Fibrocystic disease and malignant tumours exhibited a 3-6-fold increased stiffness with high-grade invasive ductal carcinoma exhibiting up to a 13-fold increase in stiffness compared to fibrogalndular tissue. A statistical analysis showed that differences between the elastic modulus of the majority of those tissues were statistically significant. Implications for the specificity advantages of elastography are reviewed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Biopsy
  • Breast / pathology*
  • Breast Diseases / diagnosis
  • Breast Diseases / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Elasticity
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Mammography / methods*
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted