When Julian Rios Cantu’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time, he was devastated.
“The tumor went from having the dimensions of a grain of rice to that of a golf ball in less than six months,” Rios Cantu told HuffPost. “The diagnosis came too late and my mother lost both of her breasts and, almost, her life.”
But when he learned the early warning signs of breast cancer, the 18-year-old also saw an opportunity to fight the disease.
Now, Julian’s company, Higia Technologies, has won the top prize from the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, along with a hefty $20,000 award. The company’s invention: a bra that could detect some types of breast cancer.
The EVA auto-exploration bra contains 200 sensors that map out the tissues in breasts by measuring color, texture, and temperature. The bra then sends this data to a computer or smartphone via Bluetooth, where a “neural network” analyzes the information.
“When there is a tumour in the breast there is more blood, more heat, so there are changes in temperature and in texture,” Rios Cantu told El Universal. “If we see a persistent change, we will recommend that you go to the doctor.”
The bra isn’t designed for daily wear. It can completely map the wearer’s breasts in about an hour, and it’s reportedly comfortable.
It also allows the breasts to stay in a natural position.
The bra and its accompanying software can map changes from week to week as well as temperature fluctuations that might indicate the presence of a tumor. Although the auto exploration bra isn’t intended as a replacement for mammograms, it may be an improvement over self-examinations, which rely on the judgment of the individual. Many women have trouble noticing small changes from week to week, which can affect the efficacy of self-examinations.
“Would you entrust the life of the person you love to such a fallible method as breast self examination?” the Higia Technologies website asks. “We don’t. Let’s give women a better chance at life.”
The company is named after Hygieia, the daughter of the god of medicine in Greek mythology.
Hygieia was seen as the personification of “health, prevention, and hygiene.”
Rios Cantu believes that the bra will be especially useful in remote, rural, and low-income areas where women might not have access to women’s health clinics. Currently, he has a working prototype of the EVA auto-exploration bra, but he believes that his company will need about two years to certify and mass produce the device.
In the United States alone, about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, according to the nonprofit organization Breastcancer.org.
The organization estimates that 252,710 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2017. As is the case with most cancers, early detection is vital; women who detect cancer early have more treatment options and a lower mortality rate. Changes in breast tissue are a major early warning sign, and older women should receive regular mammograms to test for the disease.
Our hats are off to Julian Rios Cantu for his extraordinary contribution to breast cancer detection. We have a feeling this is not the last time he’ll make a big difference in the world.