Can detecting breast cancer be as easy as putting on a bra?

October 23, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

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Women:  Are you looking for the newest tool in early breast cancer detection?  If Dr. Elias Siores had his way, you might not have to look further than your own lingerie drawer.

According to, a team of researchers led by Dr. Siores at the United Kingdom’s Centre for Research and Innovation at the University of Bolton has developed a new “smart bra” that they hope will alert women of any microscopic changes in body temperature.  Small changes in temperature such as these may be correlated with early tumor development, and this new foray into women’s clothing design hopes to take advantage of that fact by using passive microwaves that are embedded into the fibers of the bra.

But is such an easy solution accurate?  The Mayo Clinic thinks that women should be weary of such one-size-fits-all approaches to tumor detection.

Sandhya Prudhi, MD, a breast health specialist at the Mayo Clinic, had this to say about the use of thermography for early breast cancer detection:

“There is no evidence that breast thermography is an effective screening tool for early detection of breast cancer. . . This technology is most effective in detecting tumors that are close to the skin surface but not tumors deeper in the breast. Also, breast thermography is not sensitive enough to detect small cancers. Breast thermography is not routinely used for breast cancer detection and should not be used instead of mammograms.” 

New research suggests, however, that more advanced integrated techniques in breast cancer thermography still have a lot of promise. An August 2007 study reviewing recent advances in breast cancer thermography in the Journal of Medical Engineering Techology states:

“Technological advances in the field of infrared thermography over the last 20 years warrant a re-evaluation of the use of high-resolution digital thermographic camera systems in the diagnosis and management of breast cancer. . .   Of particular interest would be investigation in younger women and men, for whom mammography is either unsuitable or of limited effectiveness.”

I recognize the value in having an easy-to-use early cancer detection tool, but I’m still not sure that I would rely on a thermography in an undergarment. It seems like there could be a lot of room could be attributed to human error, especially for a klutz for me who routinely spills coffee down the front of my shirt.  Readers, would you consider using a tool like this?

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