Academics at Sheffield Hallam University are working with a lingerie company and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to provide a new specially designed bra for some women undergoing breast radiotherapy, which they hope will improve accuracy of treatment and also help patients maintain dignity during radiotherapy.
Working with Panache Lingerie, the 'SuPPORT 4 All' study, funded by the NIHR Invention for Innovation (i4i) Programme, is developing a bra that allows accurate positioning of the breast on a day-to-day basis. This may also reduce the dose received by organs that lie close to the breast such as the lungs and heart in some patients.
Apart from aiming to improve accuracy, the study should also provide improved dignity and modesty for participants during their radiotherapy treatment, since, in the majority of radiotherapy centres worldwide, women are required to expose the affected breast during treatment.
The bra, which is currently in the early stages of development and is being tested on healthy volunteers, is suitable to be worn during treatment and can be used with existing radiotherapy positioning equipment to stabilise the breast, whilst also maintaining patient dignity.
At the moment most practitioners across the globe rely on the use of permanent pin point tattoo marks alongside laser systems, to position the patient under the radiotherapy beam. The bra may remove the need for these marks which are often a concern for patients.
Public Health and Innovation Minister Nicola Blackwood said: “It is fantastic that more women than ever before are surviving breast cancer. But it is also important that they feel confident and supported during what can be a tough treatment regime.
“This is exciting and innovative research with them potential to improve both the accuracy and experience of radiotherapy."
Throughout the study the team are consulting with radiotherapy practitioners and patients who have previous experience of undergoing breast radiotherapy. Tests are currently being carried out using a prototype design, with the aim of moving on to testing the product with patients in a clinical setting by early 2017.
Project lead, Professor Heidi Probst at Sheffield Hallam University, said "We're incredibly excited to be working on a study aiming to improve the accuracy of treatment, while also transforming the experience for women undergoing breast radiotherapy.
"Every day around 130 women in the UK will be told they have breast cancer. Globally around 1.5 million women are diagnosed with the disease annually. So with over 80% of women surviving breast cancer beyond five years, improving the delivery of treatments and reducing side effects for women living beyond their cancer could have a huge impact.
"As part of our study and design process we have consulted with women who have undergone treatment and are in various stages of recovery. From these discussions we know that having the ability to wear a bra during treatment can be key in maintaining dignity, which would vastly improve the patient experience during a particularly difficult time."
Clare Robertson, Head of Innovation at Panache said "We are extremely excited to be working with the Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals on this study. This work is incredibly important for patients receiving treatment for breast cancer and we are honoured to be able to bring our 30 plus years of experience within the lingerie industry to the project.
The bra will assist medically and provide modesty and comfort during treatment. We are proud to play a part in supporting women during this challenging time."The 'SuPPORT 4 All' bra is not yet available to patients or practitioners and will be tested by radiotherapy and medical physics staff at Weston Park Hospital as part of a clinical trial.
The 'SuPPORT 4 All' study is being led by Sheffield Hallam University in partnership with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Panache Lingerie, an award winning designer and manufacturer of lingerie based in Sheffield.For more information about the study please visit www.support4all.org.uk
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