The latest weapon against breast cancer?

The Hubs sent me a link to this story about the big news in the breast cancer world — the cancer-sensing bra. The First Warning Systems bra allegedly can detect a tumor in a breast years before said tumor would be found by more conventional screening methods. The “smart bra” is said to accurately screen abnormalities in breast tissue.

I saw my favorite breast surgeon today for my 6-month checkup, and had every intention of asking her what she thinks about this, but we got distracted talking about her puppy and our little piggie, and the possibility of implants for me, and the cruel injustice of the hormonal insanity that plagues a breast cancer warrior, and her upcoming Pretty in Pink event.

The First Warning Systems bra has been in development for the last 20 years, and while it sounds like a great idea, I sure wish they’d come up with a better name. As is, it sounds like a surface-to-air missile or something similarly militaristic and scary.

Of course, breast cancer is militaristic and scary, so touche.

The sports-bra-looking contraption contains sensors that supposedly can detect small changes in the temperature in breast tissue.  Cancer-causing cells emit more heat than normal, non-combative cells, and this bra is said to identify the changes in body temperature that may indicate that tumors are growing.  The maker of this “smart bra” says that in clinical trials, the bra correctly identified 92 percent of tumors, compared to the 70 percent of tumors found in baseline mammograms, and the bra can identify those tumors as much as 6 years before they’d show up on a mammogram. If all goes according to plan, the bras will be available for sale in Europe next year and the Unites States in 2014 with a retail price of approximately $1,000.00.

The company says that the bra provides women with a better form of breast self-exam when it’s worn for the duration of the testing period (although I’ve not found any references to how long or how often it needs to be worn or if the cost would be covered by insurance). Once the sensors do their sensing, the data is collected and submitted online, presumably by the woman wearing the bra, and then analyzed by “sophisticated algorithms.” I certainly wouldn’t want a naive algorithm to analyze my data.

Why am I not jumping up and down at this news, when it sounds quite promising?

Maybe because it’s Pinktober and I’m exhausted by all things breast-related.

Maybe because even if the First Warning Systems turns out to revolutionize breast cancer screening, it’s too late for me and many of my friends, whose lives have already been turned upside down by the dreaded disease, never to be fully righted again.

Maybe because after years of the “war on cancer” and “fighting for a cure,” progress has been slim to none and I don’t want to get my hopes up.

Maybe because there’s no mention in any of the literature about whether the “smart bra” is smart enough to figure out a way to fill in the divots caused by radiation, to smooth out scars left by mastectomies and reconstruction, to even out an asymmetrical rack, or to camouflage a less-than idea decolletage.

Or maybe because the “smart bra” doesn’t come in pink.



13 Comments on “The latest weapon against breast cancer?”

  1. gozzygirl says:

    I saw the article about the bra and thought the same thing too: it’s too late for me. And besides, what would knowing 6 years earlier do? Would you monitor instead of doing surgery? Would you amputate your breast six years earlier? Or just be stressed out for six years waiting for it to get big enough to operate on?

    On the plus side, maybe some people would be less hesitant about getting a mammogram.

    BTW, did you know today is Breast Reconstruction Day?

    • Gozzy, great point about what would knowing 6 years earlier do. I think the answer is be stressed out for all those years. And yes, it is too late for us. That makes me sad.

  2. David Benbow says:

    Still… Sounds like a better deal than the $5 million jewel-encrusted bra from Victoria’s Secret (where every month is Pinktober) that I saw online yesterday.

  3. leia in la la land says:


    I finally must weigh in but not on the bra. I’m a new reader and yours is the only blog I’ve ever kept a tab open on for more than one day – in fact, it’s been about a week now since I found your blog. As an aside, I was diagnosed last week – October 9, 2012.

    Anyway, weighing in here on yet another WTF link I just saw (and then followed) via Twitter –

    The hook:

    12 Most Pretty in Pink Wines for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

    The link:

    Really? The twelve prettiest pink wines for breast cancer awareness month??? I just googled alcohol and invasive ductal carcinoma (just to make sure my addled memory was serving me right) and BINGO: “More Evidence Implicating Alcohol in Breast Cancer Risk.”

    All of this has never seemed more ridiculous than this year, but then again, I’ve never had an October wherein I’ve been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, so there’s that.

    I actually did see something more ridiculous than the prettiest pink wine ploy. It’s one of those goofy web pages (linked via Twitter) that look to be written by someone who bought a domain and decided to write the first paragraph he or she has written since flunking out of high school English class.

    The headline was “Breast reconstruction after mastectomy- enjoy being a woman, again!” and the most unbelievable part was the third paragraph which reads as follows:

    “Upon having decided to receive your juggs reconstructed, you can have a discussion which includes a renowned beverly hills plastic surgeon.”


    I tweeted the guy and asked him if he had actually READ what it was he was linking! Of course, I never heard back but at least it made me feel a little bit better. Confrontation is good for the soul (or something).

    I’m including the link for evidence purposes because who would believe me otherwise?

    This rant would probably fit better with the NFL entry but I’m living dangerously and carelessly these days. I think it’s one of those breast cancer gifts.

    • Hey! I’m so glad you found me, but so sorry for the reason you found me–your diagnosis. I wish I had the right words to reassure you (and you may well be scared after reading some of my posts!), but I will say that you can and will get through this. There’s a kick-ass community, online and in the blogosphere, of women who’ve walked this walk, and connecting with them will make your “journey” much easier. I’m gonna check out the story on the wines (I’m pissed off already just at the headline), and I tip my hat to you for confronting the idiot writing about reconstruction. Gotta check that out too. Please keep in touch — I like your feisty attitude and know it will serve you well as you confront the breast cancer beast.

    • Trevor Hicks says:

      That article was not written by a native English speaker. That site is a content farm, they pay writers a couple bucks for crappy content purely for the purpose of having something show up in Google to get clicks. They don’t care that’s it terrible and worse than useless – we clicked and saw their ads.

      It’s a pretty awful business model – avoid clicking over, that just feeds the beast.

  4. Trevor Hicks says:

    I suspect you’d have to wear it for at least parts of several days and nights. Not only does it detect the hot spots created by the additional blood supply rumors require, but the article also indicates the sophisticated algorithm looks for differences in circadian cycles. I guess cancer cells keep on chugging while the rest of the body slows down for sleep.

    I think the potential benefits of such a device are huge. First is replacing the mammogram with a more accurate diagnosis, less uncomfortable process and without the radiation dose. But also, identifying rumors so early ought to have a substantial impact on the ability to prevent mets. On the downside it could lead to over treatment of low threat rumors. Overall I think it looks like a terrific innovation.

    • T, it does seem like a step up from mammos, but as Jan points out, I wonder if women would shy away from it bc of the reminder that the unthinkable could indeed happen to them.

  5. I saw this bra and decided just to wait on it. Sounds a little ‘too good to be true’ – screening that doesn’t involve crazy compression and radiation? So I’ll just wait on this one before doing any kind of happy dance. But who knows? Hopefully we’ll see screening options get better and better within the next several years, and this ridiculous-name bra is just the start. ~Catherine

  6. I also saw the news about this bra and thought ho-hum. I’m as skeptical as you. I’m not sure young women without breast cancer would want to wear it. It might remind them that they might get cancer in their breasts, and they wouldn’t want that unpleasant thought to enter their minds. As you say, at least it’s not pink. xx

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