Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women worldwide. According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, an estimated 1.7 million new diagnoses are done each year. The causes of breast cancer are not yet fully known, although a number of risk factors have been identified.
This problem is much severe and critical in the developing economies, where the majority of cases are identified in advanced stages. Due to this, the women have to go through a lot and often this leads to death in some cases. More than 90 percent of women in the developing countries do not have the medium of early detection of breast cancer.
One of the reasons behind this has to be that the mammograms which are the gold-standard screening technique, are rarely used because of their high cost and a lack of trained radiologists.
“India is facing a breast cancer tsunami,” Dr. Ram said. “The data reported is just the tip of the iceberg. I feel the major barrier in women getting opportunistic screening is it’s a taboo closet issue.”
Talking about the stats, India has one radiologist for every 100,000 people, while the United States has 12. In the US, 90 percent of women with breast cancer survive five years. In India, the amount is 66 percent. On the other hand, in Uganda, only 46 percent survive. Each year, over 70,000 Indian women die of breast cancer, which is more than anywhere else across the globe.
Apart from this reason, there are others as well, such as lack of electricity and poor roads. Many people, especially the poor are not even aware of cancer and remain ignorant. As a result of this, patients show up for treatment at advanced stages of breast cancer.
With all these things in mind, Mihir Shah and his colleague Matthew Campisi developed ‘iBreastExam’, a battery-operated wireless machine that records variations in breast elasticity. iBreastExam is a wireless handheld device which would enable any healthcare worker to conduct a breast cancer examination within five minutes and access the results on a smartphone or tablet. Green would indicate normal breast tissue, while red would indicate a lesion was detected, which would suggest the need for further testing.
“Scientists at Drexel University, working with the centre, developed a hand-held, wireless breast cancer scanner, called the iBreast Exam. This device will enable any doctor or healthcare worker to conduct an exam within five minutes, and then access the results on a smartphone or tablet,” US Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzeker said.
The brainchild of computer engineer and developer Mihir Shah would also play a pivotal role in early detection of breast cancer and this would lead to lesser deaths. The examination of breast cancer through iBreastExam is painless and radiation-free. However, iBreastExam isn’t meant to replace or compete with mammograms.
“Mammography is the standard of care,” he said. “Anything that deviates from it, we’re skeptical.”
Talking about the iBreastExam user, it takes four to eight hours to train a health care worker to use iBreastExam. Every healthcare worker goes through a test before being certified. A particular scan costs between $1 and $4, based on how many scans the provider commits to. On the other hand, a regular mammogram in India costs at least $20.
For the launch of the device, Shah had to face a lot of troubles, however, he was successful in the end. He stated that the primary motive of a screening program is to improve survival rates. India’s public healthcare system is known for long waits, poor care and worker shortages, and most of the private hospitals are out of reach for the poor. Similarly, most cancer centers are in cities, thus, such an invention was necessary.
Here we have some feedbacks related to the iBreastExam from the real woman:
“A step to make women feel that their health is important” – Joomi, Botswana
“It really helps to know about yourself, which we avoid in our day to day life”– Jaya, Myanmar
“Excellent! No Pain. Instant Results.” – Pooja, India
“It’s good to have firsthand information before going for a full check-up” – Maria, Mexico
The technology is having a significant impact in the fight against breast cancer, not just by making early detection easier for those who need it most, but by creating more awareness in how women can be more proactive in lowering their risk.