## Abstract

This is Part III of the work that examines photon diffusion in a scattering-dominant medium *enclosed by* a “concave” circular cylindrical applicator or *enclosing* a “convex” circular cylindrical applicator. In Part II of this work Zhang *et al.* [J. Opt. Soc. Am. A **28**, 66 (2011) [CrossRef] ] predicted that, on the tissue-applicator interface of either “concave” or “convex” geometry, there exists a unique set of spiral paths, along which the steady-state photon fluence rate decays at a rate equal to that along a straight line on a planar semi-infinite interface, for the same line-of-sight source–detector distance. This phenomenon of steady-state photon diffusion is referred to as “straight-line-resembling-spiral paths” (abbreviated as “spiral paths”). This Part III study develops analytic approaches to the spiral paths associated with geometry of a large radial dimension and presents spiral paths found numerically for geometry of a small radial dimension. This Part III study also examines whether the spiral paths associated with a homogeneous medium are a good approximation for the medium containing heterogeneity. The heterogeneity is limited to an anomaly that is aligned azimuthally with the spiral paths and has either positive or negative contrast of the absorption or scattering coefficient over the background medium. For a weak-contrast anomaly the perturbation by it to the photon fluence rate along the spiral paths is found by applying a well-established perturbation analysis in cylindrical coordinates. For a strong-contrast anomaly the change by it to the photon fluence rate along the spiral paths is computed using the finite-element method. For the investigated heterogeneous-medium cases the photon fluence rate along the homogeneous-medium associated spiral paths is macroscopically indistinguishable from, and microscopically close to, that along a straight line on a planar semi-infinite interface.

© 2012 Optical Society of America

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