According to the World Health Organization, 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020 alone globally. Of those, 685 000 died. The report further stated that by the end of 2020, there were 7.8 million women alive who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past five years, making it the world’s most prevalent cancer.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the WHO said breast cancer is one of the most common diseases – with 129,000 new cases diagnosed in 2020 and survival rate in the last five years near 50%.
“One in two women diagnosed with the disease has died within five years after diagnosis, compared to fractions in the United States of America of one in five for black women and one in 10 for white women,” it said.
The high mortality rate recorded in breast cancer in the region is largely attributed to late diagnosis. Now, a Nigerian robotics engineer has developed a “smart bra” to aid the early detection of cancerous tumours.
The smart bra invented by Bolarinwa Kemisola is safe and easy to use. She said it is nanotechnology with tiny ultrasound sensors that can scan the breasts and reveal the location of any tumour; hence it does not have any side effects.
“In 2021, I was able to do a test run on a prototype of the smart bra. The bra has small sensors coupled with its nanotechnology that doesn’t cause harm to the body tissues,” she told BBC Pidgin.
But she quickly added: “This bra doesn’t replace normal bra or is worn throughout the day. This particular bra is worn during the breast cancer check which doesn’t last more than five minutes.”
In another interview with SciDev.Net, Bolarinwa recounted her motivation for inventing the innovation.
“My beloved mother died of breast cancer in 2017 at the University College Hospital in Ibadan, Nigeria, because it was diagnosed late. In her ward, I saw women of different age groups, even teenagers, groaning under the pain of breast cancer. That was when I felt I needed to contribute my part to fight the disease,” she said.
She said that the intelligent bra is lined with small, battery-operated ultrasound sensors and syncs up with a mobile or web app.
“The result will show if the tumour is benign (harmless) or malignant (harmful). The smart bra must be worn on the breasts for a maximum of 30 minutes for the result to show. The app also has an interface for the result to be transmitted to a doctor,” she explained.
The smart bra was developed by Nextwear Technology, a wearable firm based in Abuja.