X-ray fluorescence and energy dispersive x-ray diffraction for the quantification of elemental concentrations in breast tissue
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This paper presents improvements on a previously reported method for the measurement of elements in breast tissue specimens (Geraki et al 2002 Phys. Med. Biol. 47 2327-39). A synchrotron-based system was used for the detection of the x-ray fluorescence (XRF) emitted from iron, copper, zinc and potassium in breast tissue specimens, healthy and cancerous. Calibration models resulting from the irradiation of standard aqueous solutions were used for the quantification of the elements. The present developments concentrate on increasing the convergence between the tissue samples and the calibration models, therefore improving accuracy. For this purpose the composition of the samples in terms of adipose and fibrous tissue was evaluated, using an energy dispersive x-ray diffraction (EDXRD) system. The relationships between the attenuation and scatter properties of the two tissue components and water were determined through Monte Carlo simulations. The results from the simulations and the EDXRD measurements allowed the XRF data from each specimen to be corrected according to its composition. The statistical analysis of the elemental concentrations of the different groups of specimens reveals that all four elements are found in elevated levels in the tumour specimens. The increase is less pronounced for iron and copper and most for potassium and zinc. Other observed features include the substantial degree of inhomogeneity of elemental distributions within the volume of the specimens, varying between 4% and 36% of the mean, depending on the element and the type of the sample. The accuracy of the technique, based on the measurement of a standard reference material, proved to be between 3% and 22% depending on the element, which presents only a marginal improvement (1%-3%) compared to the accuracy of the previously reported results. The measurement precision was between 1% and 9% while the calculated uncertainties on the final elemental concentrations ranged between 10% and 16%.
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