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‘Smart bra’ detects breast cancer years earlier than mammograms

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A new “smart bra” currently undergoing clinical trials can detect cell mutations in the breasts up to six years earlier than traditional mammograms, according to the company that made the device.

The so-called “First Warning System” likely saved the life of Nedra Lindsay, a nurse who discovered she had breast cancer nearly 20 years ago, at the age of 24, after she tried out an early prototype of the device before it was in bra-form. Lindsay was featured Monday in a report by CBS Boston, saying the sensors that are now in the bra showed “proof positive that I had cancer.”

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It works by repeatedly measuring heat patterns and the shape of a breast over the course of a day, using detailed readings to track tiny changes in temperature caused by the growth of blood vessels. The computer in the bra can then compare thousands of data points picked up with its sensors to bioinformatic profiles of cancerous tissues, which the company says enables them to deliver a detection alert with up to 90 percent accuracy.

Because it is so sensitive, the bra can actually detect a breast tumor after it has spent just a few years developing. That’s compared to mammography, usually recommended for women over 40, which usually does not detect such young tumors, leaving doctors to stare at an image of a white mass in search of white spots that could represent dense tissue.

While the company has not yet released its clinical trial data, First Warning Systems hopes to have its bra approved by the Food & Drug Administration and on the market within a year. It will likely require a doctor’s prescription.

This video is from CBS Boston, aired Monday, March 18, 2013.

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