The aim of this work was to develop multimodal anthropomorphic breast phantoms suitable for evaluating the imaging performance of a recently-introduced Microwave Imaging (MWI) technique in comparison to the established diagnostic imaging modalities of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Ultrasound (US), mammography and Computed Tomography (CT). MWI is an emerging technique with significant potential to supplement established imaging techniques to improve diagnostic confidence for breast cancer detection. To date, numerical simulations have been used to assess the different MWI scanning and image reconstruction algorithms in current use, while only a few clinical trials have been conducted. To bridge the gap between the numerical simulation environment and a more realistic diagnostic scenario, anthropomorphic phantoms which mimic breast tissues in terms of their heterogeneity, anatomy, morphology, and mechanical and dielectric characteristics, may be used. Key in this regard is achieving realism in the imaging appearance of the different healthy and pathologic tissue types for each of the modalities, taking into consideration the differing imaging and contrast mechanisms for each modality. Suitable phantoms can thus be used by radiologists to correlate image findings between the emerging MWI technique and the more familiar images generated by the conventional modalities. Two phantoms were developed in this study, representing difficult-to-image and easy-to-image patients: the former contained a complex boundary between the mammary fat and fibroglandular tissues, extracted from real patient MRI datasets, while the latter contained a simpler and less morphologically accurate interface. Both phantoms were otherwise identical, with tissue-mimicking materials (TMMs) developed to mimic skin, subcutaneous fat, fibroglandular tissue, tumor and pectoral muscle. The phantoms' construction used non-toxic materials, and they were inexpensive and relatively easy to manufacture. Both phantoms were scanned using conventional modalities (MRI, US, mammography and CT) and a recently introduced MWI radar detection procedure called in-coherent Multiple Signal Classification (I-MUSIC). Clinically realistic artifact-free images of the anthropomorphic breast phantoms were obtained using the conventional imaging techniques as well as the emerging technique of MWI.
Keywords: dielectric properties; microwave imaging; tissue-mimicking materials.