Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the female population. Prevention is fundamental, which if carried out consistently, allows to highlight the presence of a nodule, even before it can be palpable, thus arriving at an early diagnosis capable of saving many lives. Despite this, many women fail to carry out their checks methodically, indeed, 64% of women aged 18-35 admit that they do not even conduct self-examinations regularly. Two graduates in Innovation Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art in London they understood how crucial it was to approach prevention from a different point of view and have devised a portable and easy-to-use tool that can help women check their breasts at home to identify any potentially suspicious lumps or abnormalities on their own. The device created together with a team from Imperial College is called the “Dotplot” and allowed a Debra Babalola – The Best Of Debra Babalola e Shefali Bohra to win the James Dyson Award 2022, a prestigious UK award. Thanks to this win, they aim to market Dotplot faster and will use their £ 5,000 prize for further medical research and testing.
The inspiration for this device came from the direct experience of Shefali Bohra who, after a workout in the gym, had discovered an unusual lump in one of her breasts. She went to a gynecologist for a clinical exam, in which a palpation test was performed, and was advised to monitor the lump using her fingers for a few months. Fortunately, the lump has self-resolved but from this experience Bohra and Bobalola tried to find out what existing tools were able to help women monitor their breasts on a daily basis. Amazed by the lack of home solutions, they understood the importance of building a product that meets this need especially because their research shows that women often do not feel good.
The device is a portable monitoring tool that uses patent-pending technology, which basically uses sound sensors to acquire information, capable of mapping the user’s chest and recording the readings of his or her breast tissue, detecting changes. The instrument is programmed to identify different areas around the breast to map the reading to specific points, meaning any changes in tissue density can be easily detected. When used for several months, the tool can provide monthly comparisons of breast tissue compositions that help report abnormalities as early as possible. In fact, if there are these differences, the app warns the user with a sound signal which is the abnormal point and an invitation to be examined by a doctor appears on the screen to perform further diagnostic tests.
The long-term goal is to help as many women as possible detect potential breast cancer early. The two engineers estimate their device could save hundreds of lives each year through early detection. They hope to further develop the device, which for now detects lumps up to 15 millimeters deep, and would like to apply the technology to monitor other tissue changes, such as those associated with testicular cancer and soft tissue sarcoma. Winning the UK stage of the James Dyson Award has made it possible to obtain £ 5,000 with which the two scientists will do further research and medical tests, but they aim to find funds to commercialize their invention in the coming years so that it can become a global solution as a self-control breast test at home.