Last updated: 5/10/18


The project aims at designing a tactile interface for detecting the breast lump and determining its location,shape,size and the type of lump.

  • Students: Amrita Krishnaraj
  • Mentor(s): Dr. Nitish Thakor, Dr. Jeremy Brown

Background, Specific Aims, and Significance

According to the American cancer society, about 1,650,000 women will be diagnosed with breast lumps in the United States of America in 2018 and about 40,920 women will die from breast cancer. Some of the methods available for breast mass detection are MRI, Ultrasound, PET, Molecular based detection. But the golden method is the X-ray mammogram. Unfortunately, studies reveal that low-dose radiation increases breast cancer risk among these young high-risk women, and a careful approach is warranted. Hence the aim of this project is to develop a tactile imaging technique to detect breast lumps.


Minimum deliverable: [Expected Date of Completion: 4/2/18]

-Develop a tactile interface for breast lump detection

-Detect the presence, size, shape and location of lump

Expected deliverable:[Expected Date of Completion: 4/29/18]

-Detect the type(texture) of lump

-Develop a user interface for visualization of lump estimation

Maximum deliverable:[Expected Date of Completion: 5/10/18]

-Develop a phone application for data visualization The deliverable was changed as we through it was more important to validate the developed process on different samples and determine the Success rate, False positive, False negative compared to developing an IoT.

-Evaluate Clinical diagnostic parameters

-Design interface probe

Technical Approach

The proposed hardware structural diagram is as shown in the figure. The main components we will use are the tactile senor, a readout circuit, Matlab software for data processing and the GUI/ app for data visualization. The tactile sensor will be modeled in the shape of the breast (Eg, a brasier) to form a firm covering of the breast with a slight pressure. Research shows that a pressure of 70-90kPa is applied by a physician for breast palpation. Depending on the sensitivity of the sensor, the pressure will be optimized and a control system will be developed to enable detection of small lumps. The sensor will provide voltage readings inversely proportional to the firmness of the tissue. The voltage from the senor will be obtained through a readout circuit and the data will be processed in Matlab. The sensor will have to be calibrated to relate a voltage output to the firmness of the underlying tissue. The data will be signal processed followed by segmentation to obtain the size, shape and location of the lump and further be classified to obtain the texture of the mass. The visualization of the location, size, and shape will be provided in Matlab GUI and in an app that a physician can use to infer the results.

Fig 1. Technical Summary



Tactile sensor: A low cost, pressure sensor made using conductive fabric (Fig. 2) was used for detection of lumps. The construction involves a piezoresistive fabric (NW-SLPA from Eeonyx) sandwiched between two layers of conductive fabric (Silver coated nylon, LessEMF). The conductive fabric forms a row and column matrix, where each intersection between a row and a column constitutes a sensing element. The arrangement is then held together using non-conductive fabric fusible interface.

Fig 2. Sensor Design

The textile force sensitive resistors (FSRs) were characterized using an ADC (Arduino UNO). A normal force was applied directly to the sensing area of the textile cuff using a mechanical probe with a tip the same size as the sensing element. The operating range for the sensors is defined as the linear section of the sensor response curve on a log-log scale, which was found to be 0.5–20 N. This can be fit using a power trendline

Fig 3. Sensor Characteristics

Readout circuit: A standard multiplexed readout circuit was used (Fig. 4). As the resistance at each intersection decreases with increasing pressure, the pressure at each point is derived by measuring the potential difference across it. This is performed by activating each column m with a digital high signal (5V TTL) while deactivating other rows with a digital low. Each row n can then be read using a potential divider circuit, with each reading corresponding to the potential difference at point (m,n). The analog and digital pins are provided from the Arduino Uno board.

Fig 4. Readout circuit


Fig 5. Software Model

The captured data had spatial resolution of 5 mm (total 36 spatial samples, 6 × 6 array), and the captured data was smoothed via a moving average over ten frames of sensing data. To increase the contrast of the imaged lumps and render them more robust to differences in lump depth or loading, enhanced images were formed by interpolating the raw measurements. Subsequently using this data, otsu thresholding and segmentation was performed to obtain the enhanced image

Lump Localization: Next step is to extract the connected components. 3-pixel neighborhood is used to find connected components. Two-pass Connected Component algorithm first labels all connected components with a unique label, and then unites some connected components together. The matrix output from the connected components search is a matrix array with lumps numbered from 1 to the total number of lumps present. From the output of the connect component search, the location of the lump, filled in area and the centroids are determined using the inbuilt Matlab function regionprops. The entire matrix region is divided into 5 regions based on the breast segments. The nipple area is determined to be the circle with center as 2D midpoint(xc,yc) of the array and a radius of 2 pixels. The left top, right top, left down and right down segments are extended to the horizontal and vertical midpoints of the matrix.

Visualisation: Due to the construction of the sensor, the output from all the conducting strips are not identical. Due to this, the voltage from the no lump region is low to be classified in bucket 3. In order to overcome this effect, a background subtraction algorithm was developed. An unloaded senor is read and interpolated which now form the base image I(x,y). This image is used as reference and is compared to the segmented image img (x,y). A MATLAB GUI was developed to display the image along with the area, centers, segments of location and the number of distinct lumps present along with their types.

Fig 6. Plot before and After background subtraction

Lump type detection: The difference in stiffness gradient between the different types of lumps is used to classify the lumps. First, the depth of the lump is predicted from the output voltage using the SVM classifier. In order to determine the stiffness of the lumps, two assumptions are made. Firstly, the sensor is attached to a rigid surface compared to the breast tissues and the force exerted on the sensor will be translated into displacement of the tissues. Second, the displacement of the region with the lump as a reaction to the force is the same as the displacement of a normal tissue. Under the assumptions, the first principles (Hook’s law) is used to determine the stiffness of the lumps.

F = k. X

where k = stiffness of material F = Force output from sensor X = Displacement


We fabricated simulated tissues with soft polymer (Ecoflex 00-30, Smoothon, Inc.; M100 modulus of 7 × 10 4 Pa). Samples included stiff lumps, in the form of solid balls (Young’s modulus 5 ×10 10 Pa) of varying radius and flat plates of varying dimensions and shapes (rectangle and plus) for the experiments on lump imaging. This material is stiffer than a biological tumor, but it provides an appropriate contrast in stiffness to the soft polymer and facilitates comparison with results from prior literature. Simulated tissues were fabricated with dimensions of 6 cm (width) × 6 cm (length) × 2.8 cm(height). We fabricated an array of tissues that varied in the depth h from the sample surface to the top of the lump and the diameter d of the solid. In this research, we selected different values of d in the experiment: d = 3,4,6,10,16,20 mm, which are in accordance with the range of observed breast tumor sizes. Five values of embedding depth h (the distance between the tissue surface and the top of the lump) were used: h =0, 2, 4, 6, 10 mm.


When present, the lump was a prominent central feature in tactile images of all the samples that possessed it. The sensitivity of the sensor without application of any force was suitable up to a depth of 6-8mm. To cover the entire screening depth of 12 mm, a force of 1.5N is required. The sensitivity of the sensor with an applied 1.5N force is within the usable range up to a depth of 10mm. In order to capture the depth information and maximize the sensitivity, the region is scanned three times with forces 0N, 0.8N and 1.5N applied on the sensing elements. For lump-containing tissues, as the lumps varied in depth, there was a decrease in voltage in the lump region of the image, and the decrease grew with increased embedding depth, yielding a qualitatively clearer image for lumps that were closer to the surface.

Fig 7. Plot at different applied force

Fig 8. Matlab GUI Output

Experiments were conducted with phantoms by varying the depth and the size to determine the accuracy. The sensitivity of the developed method is 83% for lumps below 6mm depth and from 8 to 10 mm, the sensitivity is 45% for the lump size of 8mm. The experiments were repeated by varying the size of the lumps. For lumps larger than 4mm, the success rate is 67% up to a depth of 6 mm and for smaller lumps, the success rate of detection falls to 54% still a rate higher than the CBE in most countries.


Dependency Status

Training on fabrication of sensor Completed

Materials for sensor fabrication Completed

Readout circuit Completed

Phantom model of breast Completed

Calibration bridge Completed

Different texture samples Completed

Android phone/tab Not Started

Milestones and Status

  1. Milestone name: Fabricate Sensor
    • Planned Date: 3/11/18
    • Date of Completion: 3/11/18
    • Status: Completed
  2. Milestone name: Determine the presence, size, location and shape
    • Planned Date: 4/2/18
    • Date of Completion: 4/5/18
    • Status: Completed
  3. Milestone name: Determine the type of lump
    • Planned Date: 4/22/18
    • Date of Completion: 4/27/18
    • Status: Completed
  4. Milestone name: Develop GUI for visualization
    • Planned Date: 4/29/18
    • Expected Date: 5/1/18
    • Status: Completed
  5. Milestone name: Evaluate clinical diagnostic parameters
    • Planned Date: 5/5/18
    • Expected Date: 5/5/18
    • Status: Partially completed
  6. Milestone name: Design the contact interface
    • Planned Date: 5/10/18
    • Expected Date: 5/10/18
    • Status: Completed

Reports and presentations

Project Bibliography

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  3. W. W. Lee, J. J. Cabibihan and N. V. Thakor, ”Biomimetic strategies for tactile sensing,” in Proc. IEEE Int. Conf. Sensors, 2013, pp. 1084-1087.
  4. L. Osborn, R. Kaliki, and N. V. Thakor, ”Utilizing tactile feedback for biomimetic grasping control in upper limb prostheses,” in Proc. IEEE Int. Conf. Sensors, 2013, pp. 1266-1269.
  5. E. D. Engeberg and S. G. Meek, ”Adaptive Sliding Mode Control for Prosthetic Hands to Simultaneously Prevent Slip and Minimize Deformation of Grasped Objects,” IEEE/ASME Trans. Mechatron.,vol. 18, pp. 376-385, 2013.
  6. W.W.Lee, H.Yu and N.V. Thakor,”Gait event detection through neuromorphic spike sequence learning”, in Proc. IEEE RAS and EMBS Int. Conf, 2014,pp. 899-905
  7. V. Jalkanen et al., “Prostate tissue stiffness as measured with a resonance sensor system: A study on silicone and human prostate tissue in vitro,” Med. Biol. Eng. Comput., vol. 44, no. 7, pp. 593–603, 2006.
  8. Wellman, P. S., Howe, R. D., Dewagan, N., Cundari, M. A., Dalton, E. P. and Kern, K. A.,Tactile imaging: a method for documenting breast masses. First joint Biomed Eng Soc/IEEE Eng Med Bio Soc Conf. 1999.
  9. Wellman, P. S., Dalton, E. P. and al, e., “Tactile Imaging of Masses: First Clinical Report.”Archives of Surgery 136(2): 204-8, 2001.

Other Resources and Project Files

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