When it comes to breast cancer, early detection is everything. Over 90 percent of women who catch their cancer in the earliest stage will survive it, but that drops to just 15 percent for women with late-stage breast cancer, according to recent statistics. But finding the disease in the early stage, before it spreads, can be tricky. Women have been told that all we can do is to perform self-exams, stay on top of check-ups and get regular mammograms. (It's also one of the reasons more women are having mastectomies than ever before.)
That is, until now.
Behold the breast cancer detection bra:
It may not be the sexiest undergarment out there, but it could save your life.
Researchers from the National University of Columbia developed a prototype bra that can look for warning signs of breast cancer. Embedded in the cups and band are infrared sensors that check the breasts for changes in temperature, which can signify the presence of cancer cells. (Also, be sure to learn the 15 Everyday Things That Can Change Your Breasts.)
"When these cells are present in the mammary glands, the body requires more circulation and blood flow to the specific part where the invasive cells are found," explains Maria Camila Cortes Arcila, one of the researchers on the team. "So the temperature of this part of the body increases."
A reading only takes a few minutes and the wearer is alerted to any problems via a stoplight system: The bra flashes a red light if it detects abnormal temperature variations, a yellow light if it needs a retest, or a green light if you're all clear. The bra isn't designed to diagnose cancer, the researchers caution, so women who get a red light should immediately see their doctor for follow-up testing. (Scientists are also working on a blood test that could predict breast cancer even more accurately than mammograms.)
The bra is currently still being tested and isn't ready for purchase just yet but the researchers hope to have it to market soon. We hope so too—having a reliable, easy, at-home method for detecting breast cancer could make a huge difference for the hundreds of thousands of women diagnosed with the illness each year. And since most of us already wear a bra, what could be easier than that?