A “smart bra” called First Warning Systems could help women discover if they have breast cancer. Developed by Lifeline Biotechnologies, the bra, based on a novel breast health screening device and method could become available in Europe in 2013 and then in the United States of America in 2014, for US$ 1,000 (N160,000) for a pair.
Preliminary studies with First Warning Systems were conducted in more than 650 women, resulting in an average detection of at least 90 percent. Compared with the standard mammogram, the tests averaged 70 percent accuracy.
In a release, Lifeline Biotechnologies, the medical technology company licensing the bra observed that the First Warning System is capable not only identifying breast tissue abnormalities at their earliest stages, but can also identify the general location of such abnormalities in three dimensions to each of the four quadrants of each breast.
“It is, therefore, not intended as an additional step in the breast cancer screening process, but as an accurate identifier of early breast abnormalities which generate heat via the presence of new blood vessels that nourish the area in question.”
The bra, which would be worn at a physician’s office, has 16 colour-coded sensors that are taped to the patient’s breast. The sensors would then measure temperatures at programmed times over a predetermined testing period. The data is then stored in a recording device worn by the patient. Once the test period is over, the patient then submits the device to their doctor. The sensors are removed; the data is downloaded and then analyzed. Once a report is returned to the physician, the patient will be called in to discuss any clinical recommendations.
Based on what is described as “disruptive technology” and tissue health science, the new breast cancer detector could become a major breakthrough in making testing easier for women, however, medical experts say more studies are required before being actively used.
In a statement, Dr. Ted Gansler, Director of Medical Content for the American Cancer Society said: “Most investigational medicines and medical devices, even those based on sound scientific and technical principles do not end up being adopted into clinical practice. He adds that the main reason is that once these new products are rigorously tested in clinical trials, the result of the study is that they are less effective than current practices.
But Gansler also explains that disregarding mammography would have harmful, serious effects. “A woman who chooses any breast cancer screening test based on thermography instead of mammography would be making a serious mistake that could have fatal consequences. Major medical and public health organizations all recommend mammography and none recommend thermography or any other tests based on temperature measurements for early detection of breast cancer.”
Dr. Michele Doughty, who has conducted extensive research on how breast cancer affects women of various races differently, thinks the bra could be used as part of an overall test without replacing mammography.
“There needs to be more research and studies on the long term effects of the bra because they must contain some kind of ultraviolet ray component or chemical component,” says Doughty. “Mammograms and the bra just screen for breast cancer. The only way to actually detect breast cancer is through a biopsy where the specimen is found in the lab.”