October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a time focused on getting the word out about early detection, self-exams, mammograms and other tools that could help save lives. Soon, a new smart bra that continuously monitors a wearer's breasts for subtle changes could be added to the arsenal women have of detecting tumors early.
The Breast Tissue Screening Bra contains sensors that measure minute temperature changes, which occur when blood vessels grow to feed tumors. The changes are so small that it can often take years before a woman can feel any kind of worrisome change, though complications form well before then.
The sensors also feed back constant information, such as chronology of cell cycles, and have self-learning pattern recognition systems and statistical analysis software to help spot changes or potential tumors before self-examinations or mammograms would pick them up.
First Warning Systems from Reno, NV has been designing and testing its smart bra since the company's founding in 2008. The idea behind the bra is that it can act as a continuous exam since a woman's bras are constantly in contact with the breast.
So far, the company has been able to run three clinical trials with over 650 participants. Incredibly, the bra was able to detect the beginnings of tumors as many as six years before imaging such as a mammogram could. Additionally, there was a 92.1 percent level of accuracy in classifying them; currently mammograms correctly diagnose 70 percent.
The company's website notes the bra and its sensors don't get in the way of normal usage, but doesn't not explain how the sensors are powered or information is fed to the software. The site does provide information on how to reach them for more information and investment opportunities. First Warning Systems indicates a plan to commercialize the bra system in Europe next year, and to work with the FDA on approval here in 2014.
Because the company is still so early along in the process for approvals here in the U.S., no costs were quoted though they are likely to be somewhat pricey. The thing is, if they do turn out to be pricey after approval, that cost can't really be compared to the devastation breast cancer brings.