How Wearable Technology Could Revolutionize Breast Cancer Care

By Devin Partida, Editor-in-Chief,
LinkedIn: Devin Partida
X: @rehackmagazine

Cutting-edge wearable technology is the future of the healthcare industry. These devices can detect early signs of cancer in minutes and alert providers in real time — all from the comfort of the patient’s home. They may permanently revolutionize breast cancer care.

Why Is Wearable Technology Necessary?

Breast cancer impacts hundreds of thousands of people every year, but its five-year survival rate is nearly 100% if health care facilities catch it in the early stages. Still, many patients don’t have access to preventive care like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or mammograms. However, they could receive care remotely at any time if they had access to medical wearables.

The traditional prevention, detection and treatment process for breast cancer is time-consuming. Although around 80% of tissue biopsies come back negative, there’s a chance that a benign tumor will become malignant, and the longer care takes, the higher the risks. With the Internet of Things (IoT) wearable devices, patients won’t have to wait.

Are Wearables Better Than Traditional Technology?

Medical wearables are a remote care solution that can alert providers of breast cancer detection in real time. These devices typically outperform traditional options because they utilize emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) or advanced sensors.

For example, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers developed an advanced ultrasound scanner. They aimed to improve survival rates by providing patients with a remote screening device. In a proof-of-concept display, they detected cysts only 0.3 centimeters in diameter, proving their invention can identify early-stage breast cancer.

Wearables are also extremely accurate. In fact, an AI-integrated device’s detection accuracy is equivalent to radiologists’ rates on average. This means patients can receive affordable, consistent care, making medical wearables stand out from traditional technologies.

How Do Wearables Transform Breast Cancer Care?

While breast cancer prevention and detection are vital to high survival rates, many people don’t keep up with the suggested procedures. A busy schedule or a lack of insurance coverage is enough to keep individuals from scheduling appointments. Medical wearables bring the procedures to them, providing a much more realistic expectation for preventive care.

One invention from the California Institute of Technology uses biosensors to analyze sweat, saliva or tears to screen for biomarkers. Scientists can create headbands, mouthguards, wristbands — even contact lenses — because the printed circuit board and sensor array are flexible and thin.

Rather than rely on blood draws to identify molecular biomarkers, health care professionals can keep track of remote, noninvasive procedures. They can then use the device’s real-time data collection capabilities to alert the patient of any unusual biological changes that could indicate cancer.

The typical hurdles of breast cancer care are time and accessibility — wearable technology like this addresses both issues. Since IoT devices maintain a constant internet connection, health care providers can receive real-time alerts. Since patients only need to visit when they detect something, screening is more accessible.

What Does the Future Hold for Wearable Technology?

Wearable technology could make a drastic difference in diagnosis and treatment in edge cases. For instance, interval cancer — a variant that develops between screenings — is three times as deadly and highly aggressive. If patients can screen themselves in the comfort of their own homes, the healthcare industry could see a rapid decrease in this kind of breast cancer.

These devices have the potential to rapidly revolutionize breast cancer care. While they cannot replace medical professionals — and no one expects them to — they offer unmatched accessibility and transparency.

While solutions like IoT ultrasound devices and flexible sensor arrays are still in development, plenty of alternatives exist today. In 2022, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a wearable ultrasound system for remote breast cancer screening. In just two minutes at most, it automatically scans tissue and produces a 3D model.

The Importance of Innovating Cancer Care

Wearable technology provides many new avenues for breast cancer care. Since the most promising emerging technologies rely on advanced tools like IoT and AI, there is plenty of room for further adaptation in the future.