Two futuristic devices on the horizon could profoundly change women’s health by making screening for two common cancers more accessible and easy to use at home.
These burgeoning technologies still need to gain FDA approval, but they are examples of scores of new breakthrough tools that are transforming medicine and could be coming to a store near you.
A Bra that Detects Cancer
Imagine a bra that does far more than lift and separate. A high tech firm in Reno, Nevada is working on a “discreet wearable thermodynamic sensor” placed in a bra that can spot changes in breast cell metabolism — a sign that might suggest a tumor is forming.
First Warning Systems is planning to launch a clinical trial of its smart bra device later this year. The company’s goal is to revolutionize breast cancer screening with an accessible, cheaper and more sensitive device that can mitigate some of the current challenges screening mammograms face.
Some of these challenges are high rates of false positives (when breast tissues look abnormal but no cancer is actually present) or false negatives (when mammograms appear normal even though breast cancer is present).
The device is a small, 16-sensor array placed under the bra where it collects 12 hours of breast cell data. The sensors monitor changes in body heat and other types of energy.
The device transmits the cell data through the cloud where the company’s algorithms search for irregular patterns in cell behavior indicating disturbance in circadian rhythm, reported MedCity News.
Several studiesover the last decade have shown that disruptions in the circadian (sleep-wake) cycle can increase a women’s breast cancer risk.
Company CEO Rob Royea told Medcity News that the core technology used in the smart bra has been tested in more than 500 patients.
“Screening for breast cancer in the home will become a reality both here in the U.S. for the newly notified dense breast tissue patients and in the breast cancer epidemic regions of Asia, where massive populations are unable to, or cannot afford to, access hospital screening,” Royea said.
No word yet on what the device might cost consumers, but Royea says it will be” far less than the current out-of-pocket costs for mammography.”
If the smart bra shows a high accuracy rate and a reduced rate of false positives during clinical trials, FWS would launch first in India, then throughout Asia beginning in January of next year. FDA clearance and U.S. expansion would follow in late 2015.
Screening Cervical Cancer at Home
Eve Medical, a Toronto medical device startup is working on a test-in-a box for women to easily and reliably collect their own samples at home to screen for the human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes cervical cancer.
The company is hoping its HerSwab, a device that looks somewhat like a leaf-shaped tampon, will reduce some the barriers that currently prevent women from being screened for viral infections.
Cervical cancer, once the leading cause of cancer death in U.S. women, is now the easiest female cancer to prevent, thanks to highly effective vaccines and Pap tests that can detect precancerous cells before they become dangerous.
However, cervical cancer rates remain high in other parts of the world due to limited access to screening.
Cancer-causing viral infections such as HBV/HCV and HPV are responsible for up to 20 percent of cancer deaths in low- and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization reports.
HerSwab isn’t available to the public yet, but CEO Jessica Ching said at the Reinventing Early Stage Life Science Investing conference recently, if the device makes it to market, it would likely be distributed through organizations that run screening programs in countries with universal healthcare systems, or over the counter to U.S. women. A woman would collect her own sample and mail it back to a lab to be processed.
The company’s goal, according to its website, is to make the test easy to use, minimize sample and collection error, and provide foolproof and secure sample shipment. The company would also facilitate follow-up with the woman’s health care provider.
Lynette Summerill is an award-winning writer and watersports junkie who lives in San Diego with her husband and two beach loving dogs. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues for EmpowHER, her work has been seen in publications internationally.
NIH. Mammogram fact sheet.
Circadian disruption, shift work and the risk of cancer: a summary of the evidence and studies in Seattle. S. Davis and D.K. Merick. Cancer Causes Control. 2006 May;17(4):539-45.
World Health Organization. Cancer Fact Sheet. February 2014.
CDC. Cervical Cancer Statistics.
MedCity News. Cervical Cancer Screening. Deanna Pogoreic. 25 Mar. 2014.
MedCity News. A wearable for the bra designed to spot early signs of breast cancer readies for clinical trials. 25 Mar. 2014.
Reviewed April 1, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
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