Is this device the real deal, and should you get one for yourself?

By Julia Malacoff
October 02, 2017

As with most health conditions, early detection is key when it comes to beating breast cancer. Current guidelines state that from age 45 to 54, women of average risk (meaning no personal or family history of breast cancer) should have one mammogram per year, and then get one every two years after that. For younger women, that pretty much leaves yearly ob-gyn visits and self-exams as the main lines of defense against the deadly disease. (FYI, these fruits and veggies will significantly slash your risk of breast cancer.)

So what can you do if you want to keep a closer eye on your breast health? A new-to-market device called Pink Luminous Breast offers a way to potentially check your breasts for lumps and masses at home. Clocking in at $199, this FDA-approved medical device illuminates your breast, potentially allowing you to see any irregular areas.

The device uses a special type of light frequency that illuminates veins and masses, allowing you to identify areas of irregularity for further investigation. When a breast tumor forms, there is sometimes angiogenesis in the area, meaning that blood vessels are recruited to help the tumor grow faster. In theory, the Pink Luminous device can highlight areas where that is happening. Of course, it notes that if you do find anything that seems irregular using the device, you should go straight to your doctor to have it checked out.

Sounds like a simple solution to a huge problem, right? Here's the catch: It's not really necessary, and probably not even that helpful, according to Amy Kerger, D.O., a radiologist and assistant professor of clinical breast imaging at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. "I don't believe there is a lot of benefit from in at-home cancer checks with a device like Pink Luminous," she says. While it's true the company emphasizes that the device is not a replacement for a mammogram, "a device like this is likely to give patients a false sense of security if the result is negative, or evoke panic and anxiety if it demonstrates a positive result," Dr. Kerger explains.

And as for the FDA-approval thing, that doesn't necessarily mean it works. The Pink Luminous is a class I medical device, which only means it doesn't pose any significant risk to consumers. "This does not mean that the FDA is endorsing this device for breast screening or diagnosis," Dr. Kerger says.

What's more, Dr. Kerger points out that in most cases, this device wouldn't be very effective. "In theory, it could work if the breast is not dense at all and the tumor is close to the skin surface, larger in size, and is recruiting a good amount of vasculature. This would be a very small percentage of the cancers we see, and likely would be also palpable." In other words, there needs to be a perfect storm in order for the device's mechanism to show a positive result, and at that point it would also be easily felt by a woman or her doctor, meaning it would probably be discovered anyway. (Related: Women Are Turning to Exercise to Help Them Reclaim Their Bodies After Cancer.)

Bottom line: If you're concerned about your breast cancer risk and how you should be screened, talk to your doctor. She'll be able to work with you to come up with a protocol that makes sense for you and your lifestyle.


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