Merchant Featured on UH Moment

"We sincerely believe this is going to make their lives much easier."

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Fatima Merchant

"A picture is worth a thousand words," said Fatima Merchant, associate professor in the Department of Engineering Technology.

She’s talking about 3D pictures. She and collaborators from MD Anderson and UT Austin are developing a shared decision-making system for breast cancer patients considering breast reconstruction, and their surgeons. It involves a database of more than 500 women who’ve already gone through the process.

"We can go into the database and pull out women who are similar to a patient and we can show her 'if you choose this option, this is how your breasts are going to change over a period of time, and this is the possible outcome that can happen,'" she said.

There are different types of breast reconstruction procedures. The point of diagnosis is already stressful for a patient who has just been told she has breast cancer. Being informed not only helps her make the best choice, but aids in her physical and mental healing.

Merchant developed the 3D image analysis algorithms and tools.

"This technology has been around for over a decade, but use for breast reconstruction is relatively new," she said. "We are among the first few who started using it this way."

Merchant says the next step may be to use 3D images to show women how clothing will look on them following breast reconstruction or make the 3D images available to surgeons in the operating room using smart glasses for virtual reality visualizations.

"We think this is really innovative," she said. "We sincerely believe this is going to make their lives much easier."

Article adapted from original posted by Houston Public Media.