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Researchers providing revolutionary breast cancer care

Tuesday 31 January 2017

Women who undergo radiotherapy for breast cancer can be required to lay on the treatment bed naked from the waist upwards. Meanwhile, up to four staff, including men, adjust their position in preparation for treatment.

For women who are already coping with the stress and challenges that come with a breast cancer diagnosis, such treatments can mean that women feel a loss of dignity.

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.

The 'SuPPORT 4 All' study is developing a bra that should 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 will also allow 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.

The bra is currently in the early stages of development and is being tested on healthy volunteers.

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 the potential to improve both the accuracy and experience of radiotherapy."

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."

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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