For women in Africa and the Caribbean, as well as, for women of color in North America, access to information regarding breast cancer is particularly important. This is because Black women are usually without the resources to pursue prevention, treatment or cure.
In sub-Saharan Africa, studies say that breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer, with 129,000 new cases diagnosed in 2020, according to the World Health Organisation. To help improve breast cancer diagnosis in sub-Saharan Africa, where women find it difficult to access screening services, a female robotics engineer in Nigeria has developed a smart bra which she says can detect breast cancer early.
Kemisola Bolarinwa and her team at Nextwear Technology, a wearables firm in Abuja, Nigeria, worked on the smart bra for four years. By July this year, they hope it will be ready to market.
“My beloved aunt died of breast cancer in 2017 at the University College Hospital in Ibadan, Nigeria because it was diagnosed late,” Bolarinwa said to SciDev.Net on what inspired her to develop the bra. She said that while in her aunt’s ward at the hospital, she saw women of different age groups, even teenagers, groaning in the pain of breast cancer.
“That was when I felt I needed to contribute my part to fight the disease,” she said.
The prototype comes with ultrasound technology and mobile and web apps that can display where a tumor is on the breasts, according to SciDev.Net.
“The result will show if the tumor is benign [harmless] or malignant [harmful],” Bolarinwa explained. “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.”
The Nigerian robotics engineer said she and her team have conducted a local trial and got about 70 percent accuracy. At the moment, they are working towards 95-97 percent accuracy. Thanks to Bolarinwa’s smart bra, women may no longer have to go to the doctor to be screened for breast cancer as they could use her devise from the comfort of their home.
“If they could detect early that they have cancer, then they will be safe, and many don’t have to die,” she said.