Women may soon be able to self diagnose breast cancer with the help of a smart bra which is being developed by researchers at the Centre for Materials Research and Innovation (CMRI) at the University of Bolton, UK.
Female breast cancer is the most common cancer in women - 1,050,346 new cases of breast cancer were reported worldwide in 2000 with overall costs estimated at around $182 billion by USA National Institutes of Health. With these high costs in healthcare the demand for home diagnostic and monitoring devices become increasingly important in reducing costs.
The smart bra which will cost around $500,000 to develop works using a microwave antennae system device which can be easily woven into the fabric of the bra.
Professor Elias Siores, inventor of the smart bra and Director of CMRI, says it can detect cancer before the tumour can develop and spread into the surrounding areas. It can also evaluate the effectiveness of any breast cancer treatment its wearer is undergoing.
The antennae picks up any abnormal temperature changes in the breast tissue and abnormalities associated with cancer cells. Information about each breast is collected and transferred via conducting polymers. A separate controller unit analyses the information and sets off an alarm if the normal breast tissue temperature is exceeded.
With early detection breast cancer has a higher survival rate. According to Professor Siores, the cancer detection is based on the principle that metabolic activity and vascular circulation in both pre-cancerous tissue and the area surrounding a developing breast cancer is almost always higher than in normal breast tissue. The process results in an increase in regional internal and external temperatures of the breast. The microwave antennae has high sensitivity and can detect these temperature variations, which are the earliest indications of the breast cancer and/or a pre-cancerous state of the breast.
Smart bra data will be easy to interpret for the wearer since the audible and/or visual alarm will alert them to the potential need for further medical expert diagnosis and assessment. But according to a breast surgeon at Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, this technique would need to be validated as not all of these temperature changes will be due to a cancer.
The researchers say that there are no health risks associated with this form of passive microwave technology and they expect the unit cost to be just above the average cost of a traditional bra and should be available within the next couple of years.
The university's partners in the smart bra's development are: RES Ltd, Russia; Istanbul Textile and Apparel Exporters Association (ITKIB); the Greek national health service, IKA, and the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC).
Reference University of Bolton
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