In 2013, approximately 70,000 Indian women died due to breast cancer; a 43 per cent jump from 2008. Over the last few decades, the average age of developing breast cancer has undergone a significant shift; it is now the most common cancer in urban India and the second most common in rural areas. This is mainly due to two reasons – delay in early diagnosis and lack of preventive breast health checks. Healthcare is low on priority resulting in most people presenting only when symptomatic, and on an average, most ‘symptomatic’ cancers are stage 2B and beyond (significant numbers in stages 3 and 4).
Mammography, a technique using x-rays to identify breast cancer isn’t feasible across India’s socio-economic pyramid, due to the equipment cost and the lack of radiologists. India has an abysmal 10,000 radiologists serving over a billion people as opposed to the US which has 100,000 radiologists serving four hundred million people. Therefore, in the West, over 75 per cent cases (stage 1 and 2) result in a good survival rate and there is an ever-increasing number of patients presenting with mammography detected cancer, with no symptoms.
India needs to reach this achievement and this is possible only with a deployable, scalable and sustainable solution which further needs aggressive promotion of awareness and screening.
UE LifeSciences’ flagship device, iBreastExam is a high-tech, ultra-portable and radiation-free device that has the potential to provide millions of Indian women access to a painless breast health examination and to early detection of breast lesions, for the first time.
UE LifeSciences Inc. (UELS) is a Philadelphia, PA based corporation with a mission to design, develop and commercialize globally adoptable and clinically effective non-invasive medical solutions. UELS creates automated and sustainable technologies that do not require highly skilled user base for accurate test administration and data analysis.
iBreastExam uses patented ceramic sensors invented at Drexel University, USA to detect subtle variations in breast tissue stiffness. Tumours being stiffer than normal breast tissue are detected in real-time by this novel sensor. The US FDA cleared iBreastExam is easily usable by ASHAs or ANMs in virtually any setting, performs bilateral breast examinations with results in under 5 minutes, accurately detects lesions with sensitivity higher than 85 per cent, has a low false-alarm rate (6 per cent) and does not cause any pain or discomfort.
iBreastExam pairs with a smartphone app (via Bluetooth) and as the scanning is conducted, the results appear on the phone’s screen. The app alerts the health worker if any abnormalities are detected so that she can refer the patient for further evaluation. A screening is expected to be priced as low as INR 100 (~$1.50) making it highly affordable to most Indian women.
According to a study published by the Indian Journal of Gynaecologic Oncology, iBreastExam demonstrated an increase of 19 per cent in detections, even picking up non-palpable cancerous breast lesions, as opposed to the physician clinical breast exam.
As of June 2016, iBreastExam has successfully screened over 34,000 women in India and have signed financial commitments to screen 400,000 women in 2017.