Breast carcinoma is the leading cause of cancer in women and early detection is critical to its successful treatment. At present, x-ray mammography is the only imaging modality with a proven capability for detecting early-stage breast cancer and reducing mortality. To reduce the risk of radiation carcinogenesis and to ensure early detection of breast cancer, mammographic screening must be accomplished using the lowest possible radiation dose while significantly improving the image quality. Screen-film mammography is currently the most efficacious and cost-effective method of screening breast cancer. Nonetheless, radiological community is not satisfied with its performance. Advanced digital imagers based on CCD or a-Si:H arrays may overcome many of the limitations of screen-film mammography. However, if used with a conventional phosphor, the compromise between x-ray stopping power and spatial resolution limits their performance. To address these issues, we propose to develop a new generation, micro pixelized scintillator that allows thicker screens with increased sensitivity and spatial resolution, and integrate into a suitable digital optical imaging system. This novel scintillator would produce high resolution images with much lower dose than film-screen, while the digital nature of the image would permit a wide dynamic range and the possibility of image enhancement.
In addition to the enormous clinical x-ray imaging market, the proposed development of novel pixelized scintillator would find widespread use in instrumentation wherever high-resolution x-ray radiology is used. The technology of micro-machining is adaptable to a wide range of sensors including solid-state detectors, thus opening an access to a wide x-ray imaging market which is currently estimated to be in hundreds of millions of dollars. They may be applied to non-destructive testing systems, diffraction instruments, basic physics research, and other medical imaging systems.