New technology allows bra to detect breast cancer

While some bras are designed for fashion, one new model is designed to be a lifesaver. First Warning Systems says its bra can alert a woman to potential breast cancer

"The thermoster sends a low impedance scan through the breast and reports back as a temperature," said Matt Bernadis with First Warning.

The bra is designed to be worn for 12 hours. During that time, heat sensors use a form of thermography to spot temperature changes in the breast tissue that could indicate a growing tumor.

"Against the screening mammogram we're finding the mammogram was accurate up to about 70 percent on average, whereas the First Warning System was accurate to about 90 percent, 90 percent-plus," Bernadis said.

However, Dr. David Priest warns, "I think in general it's an interesting concept that might prove at some point to have validity. At this point I think it's still experimental."

Dr. Priest is the Director of Women's Imaging at St. Mary's Medical Center in San Francisco. He says that mammograms are still critical for breast cancer screenings, not just to detect potential cancer, but to help confirm a diagnosis.

"It's not enough to simply identify that there is an abnormality, it's also important to use that technology to pinpoint the location so that the area of concern can be definitively and accurately biopsied," Dr. Priest said.

He worries the early detection system could result in an increase in mammograms and exposure to radiation. Right now, mammography is recommended for women over 40.

But the makers of the smart bra say the device can establish a baseline for younger women and monitor changes over time.

"It's a push toward proactive medicine and trying to deal with disease well before we screen and find it now," Bernadis said.

And with a projected price of around $200, developers believe their bra would be an inexpensive option for women to monitor their breast health.

While trials are continuing in the U.S., the company does expect the bra to go on sale in Europe sometime next year.

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