About one in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer during her lifetime, according to Breastcancer.org. Death rates from the disease have been declining in the past decade, partly due to earlier detection and better treatments. One of the keys to a successful outcome is that the disease be diagnosed as early as possible.
A group of researchers at National University of Columbia have come up with a fairly simple device that might help with early detection of breast cancer. They have created a prototype smart bra that has temperature sensors embedded in the fabric. These sensors compare the temperatures of the two breasts, and the data is recorded for analysis. If cancer cells are present, this usually results in increased blood flow, which in turn will raise the temperature in the tissue in that breast. If the temperatures are different, then the program indicates that further attention is required. The results from the prototype bra have been compared with those from a thermal imaging camera to validate the measurements from the bra.
It’s easy to imagine how multiple sensors could be embedded in the bra, provide more granular data about the temperature of different regions of each breast, possibly providing more accurate indications of the location of areas that might need closer inspection. It is also possible that the bra could provide feedback directly to the wearer, providing an alert that medical advice is warranted. It is possible that something as simple as a piece of clothing could end up saving tens of thousands of lives each year.