It is no secret that breast cancer is a major disease, accounting for 22.9% of all cases and leading to the death of approximately 500,000 women a year. With one in eight women being effected worldwide at some point in their life, early detection is key. Up until recently, these took the form of doctor exams or self-examinations. However, within a few years, there may very well be an early detection system that women can wear and which never stops working.
It’s known as the Breast Tissue Screening Bra, or Smart Bra as many like to call it. Developed in 2008 by the company First Warning Systems, in Reno, Nevada, the bra is designed act as a continuous exam device. As an alternate to self-exams and the somewhat controversial mammography, early tests indicated that it may actually be the most effective form of cancer screening to date.
The bra accomplishes all this by relying on a series of internal sensors and pattern recognition software. By detecting tiny temperature changes that occur as blood vessels grow and feed tumors, the bra is able to identify the presence of tumors while still in early formation, and up to six years before they would be detectable by mammogram and twelve years before they could be removed by surgery.
Thus far, First Warning Systems has conducted three clinical trials using a total of 650 participants. So far, the results have been favorable, with the bra showing a 92.1 percent level of accuracy in detecting and classifying tumors. This is compared to a 70 percent accuracy rating as seen in routine mammograms. At present, the company plans to being releasing the bra in Europe by 2013 and, pending FDA approval, in the United States by 2014.
Personally, I don’t think this product can reach the market soon enough. With luck, it could very well signal a new era in the ongoing struggle to put an end to cancer. And who knows? If this works out, perhaps a similar garment could be developed for men, a pair of shorts that help with the screening of testicular and prostate cancer. Combined with nanomachines that are capable of monitoring our hearts, brains, lungs, pancreas and other internal organs, we may very well be able to stop cancer through early detection and prevention.
Here’s hoping! Meanwhile, check out this video of the Smart Bra’s design and workings.