Smart Bra Aims to Detect Breast Cancer Earlier

By Samba Lampich

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States and one of the leading causes of cancer deaths of among women of all races. Detecting it earlier and treating it sooner is key to saving thousands of lives every year.

First Warning Systems, a Reno, Nevada-based company, is hoping to make detection happen earlier and easier using their cancer-detecting bra, which is still in clinical trials.

Breakthrough Technology

The bra, which looks like an ordinary sports bra, is equipped with eight electrodes embedded in each cup that detect temperature changes in a woman’s breast tissues during a 12-hour period. As tumors grow, they siphon off nutrients from blood vessels to feed their multiplying cells. The tumors induce new blood vessels to grow and this generates more heat than in the surrounding normal tissue.


Photo Credit: First System Warning

This data about the temperature changes is uploaded through a secure data link to First Warning’s specialized software, which compares this information to the patterns of documented cancerous tissue. The data is analyzed and registered as “normal,” “benign,” “suspected for breast tissue abnormalities” or “probable for breast tissue abnormalities” classification. This report is sent to the patients’ physician who will determine if a follow-up with tests and standard diagnostic procedures is required.

First Warning says they can then predict the presence of breast cancer with up to 90% accuracy. This level of confidence indicates that the system is getting its classification of breast tissue conditions accurate 90% of the time.

Beyond Traditional Detection Methods

The company says the bra is so sensitive it can detect breast tumors that are in the early stages of growth and cannot be detected by physical examinations of mammography. This early detection allows patients to start treatments earlier before the tumor gets a dangerous head start. It also is better at detecting tumors in dense breast tissue, which is often difficult with typical mammography.

First Warning Systems hopes to have its bra approved by the FDA and on the market by 2014. The bra will cost consumers around $200 and will likely require a doctor’s prescription.

Classroom Discussion

  • What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
  • What are some of the myths about breast cancer? Can men get breast cancer?