By Thilak S. Fernando

The modern ‘liberated woman’ who dismissed the idea of wearing a brassiere as part of the female dress and decided to burn the bra nearly two decades ago to stand firm in a fast changing modern society may have to re-think and hook back her bra straps again as the current medical statistics reveal an alarming number of women today becoming breast cancer victims.

Statistics in the UK alone show that one in twelve women develop breast cancer and the death toll is recorded at 14,000 per annum, and over 33,000 new cases are being monitored year on year.

Up to now women’s breast cancer has been treated with drugs or hormone treatment if the disease is diagnosed at its early stages. Numerous medical bulletins from doctors and the Department of Health have been advising women to have regular self examinations to see whether they could see ‘unusual lumps, a change in the size of their breast, a drawing back of nipples, changes in nipples, swelling of the upper arm armpit, ‘orange-peel’ skin, enlarged pores on the breast, or any discharge out of them’. Scientists have proved that thousands of lives could be saved each year with treatment if early symptoms of breast cancer are found .

Whatever the women’s liberation view on wearing a bra would be, a newly invented white cotton ‘Smart Bra’ by Dr. Wei Wang and his team at the Electronic & Electrical Engineering Department at De Montfort University, Leicester seems to have a better function than to ‘lift and shape’ a woman’s appearance, and save life in the case of breast cancer.

The “ Smart Bra” is fixed with a microchip, which will read the difference between innocuous growths and malignant lumps and generate a computer image of the breast while the patient is wearing the bra. The wonder behind all these is that the ‘wonder Bra’ will not only assist in the diagnostic programme of breast cancer to detect tiny tumours of less than 5 mm, within 60 seconds, it is able to screen even younger women who have dense breast tissues. It is also able to monitor the effect of chemotherapy on the size of a tumour and will help cutting the cost on breast-X-rays or biopsies used in conventional diagnostic methods.

The “ Smart Bra’ was unveiled in mid-September 98 with a young university student posing in a 34B model as a guinea-pig and ever since it has been experimented on hundreds of hospital patients. The inventors of the Bra have quoted a pathologist of a hospital as saying that the results of the tested hospital patients looked promising having analysed the results more than once.

The next task for the research team is believed to be to raise sufficient funds to develop the idea and if everything goes firmly well the ‘ Smart Bra’ is scheduled to appear in two years time.