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Kerala Scientists Design A Low-Cost Bra To Detect Breast Cancer

  • IWB Post
  •  March 14, 2019

Due to lack of awareness and late detection, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in India. As per statistics, it accounts for 27% of all cancers in women and approximately 2000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer daily.

While the disease was early found in women aged over 50, according to new surveys, women aged between 30 and 40 years old are developing breast cancer at an alarmingly increasing rate.

The usual course of diagnosis for breast cancer involves screening tests like mammogram that exposes one to radiations and is not really a viable option for everyone as it costs between Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 8,000. To overcome these limitations, a group of scientists from Kerala have come out with a product which would help in early diagnosis of the condition without any harmful effects on health and is cost-effective.

A team from Thrissur branch of Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology (C-MET), led by Dr. A Seema, who was recently awarded the prestigious Nari Shakti Puraskar by the President of India, has designed a wearable contraption with sensors embedded that detects cancerous cells in the breast.

Breast Cancer

Dr A Seema (sitting, third from left) and team members after receiving NAWD award. Courtesy: C-MET.

Speaking to Better India, Dr. Seema shared how it all started. “The idea took root when the director of Malabar Cancer Centre (Kannur) visited us sometime in 2014. They’ve been our medical partners in this project. They broached the idea of working out ways of breast cancer detection on a community scale. Mammogram was the golden standard but the provision wasn’t available in even Primary Health Centres across the country. What they had in mind was a portable device that could be implemented at a community level. This propelled us to conceptualise a wearable device for detection through thermal imaging.”

It took the team four years to develop the device and get an approval through successful clinical trials conducted at Malabar Cancer Centre.

Talking about how the device works, Dr. Seema shared, “The sensors map the skin temperature of the breast and detects the presence of any form of abnormalities, which can then form the basis for patients to take further course of action. There is no exposure to radiation with this device as it physically maps the breast skin temperature. In addition to that, the device is portable which makes it perfect for any health care or ASHA worker to carry with them during field visits. It can be easily contained in a small briefcase.”

“Most importantly, this device ensures the privacy of the wearer because one can wear clothes over it during the test. This is really significant as most women deter from taking the mammogram or any form of clinical screening because of their cultural conditioning and privacy issues.”

While mammograms can only be undertaken by women above the age of 40, this device overcomes the shortcoming as it is designed in a way where girls as young as 15 or 20 can also wear it.

Coming to the cost aspect of using this device, Dr. Seema shared, “The wearable device alone would cost between Rs 400-500 and these are our lab estimates. Once commercialised, it could even get cheaper. If one is to go through the tests alone, I can ascertain that it wouldn’t cost more than Rs 50.”

To ascertain the success of the device, a total of 117 patients and 200 volunteers were part of the C-MET team’s clinical trials. The team is now working to collaborate with a company to make the technology commercial. “At present, they are in the training process and as soon as their production begins, another set of clinical trials will be undertaken from their end. As these trials often take some time, we are estimating that the device will be in the market in a year or so.”

The team of scientists includes Muralidharan, Arathi K, Renjith, Deepak, Haseena, Eva Ignatius, and Sreelakshmi as the core project team. And Sunny and Sridhar Krishna are the technical staff.

H/T: The Better India

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