By Ariel Schwartz,Ariel Schwartz
Breast cancer treatments have gradually become more sophisticated over the years due to advances in genetics, but prevention still largely relies on self-exams and mammograms, which doctors are using less and which give off radiation that could lead to slight increases in cancer risk. A Reno, Nevada-based company called First Warning Systems claims to have a more advanced option for detection in the works: a bra that constantly monitors breasts for cancer growth.
The bra features a small data collection device and a sensor that keeps track of temperature changes, which can indicate growth in blood vessels that are feeding tumors. CNET points us to a claim from First Warning's website that over 650 women in three clinical trials have seen "sensitivity, specificity and accuracy" in the range of 90%, compared to 70% accuracy for current methods like mammography. The company also claims that the bra can detect hints of breast cancer up to six years before other methods--though we'll believe that when we see it.
How exactly does this thing work? The bra senses temperature variances in cells, which can indicate abnormalities that indicate the start of tumors. Using predictive analytics, the bra determines whether the data means you might need to get checked out and, if so, it alerts your doctor directly.
First Warning is hoping to get FDA clearance to go on the market in the U.S. by 2014, with an earlier European launch set for next year. We can't say how comfortable the sensor-equipped bra is, though, and that will be the ultimate deciding factor for many women. If the bra is burdensome, it won't matter how useful it is.
This isn't the first out-there breast cancer innovation we've seen in recent months. Dr. Judit Puskas, a professor at The University of Akron, is developing a new kind of breast implant that can deliver targeted chemotherapy to patients.
Copyright 2012 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.