Over 23,000 mastectomies are performed in the UK every year and an NHS audit has highlighted lower wellbeing in women who don’t opt for reconstruction. There is a need to do something about it.
Great innovations often come personal stories. Samantha Jackman’s mum breast cancer raises Samantha’s awareness on difficulties cancer survivors encountered after their treatment. One of these difficulties is the acceptation of another breast.
With her friend Rosie Brave, the two design students of the University of Plymouth decided to break taboos and raise awareness on this stage of the reconstruction process. They created Boost, a 3D printed customized PINK prosthetic that will boost the mood and confidence of cancer survivors.
“[…] When Sam showed me her mum’s beige prosthesis that failed to match her or anyone’s skin tone, I could see the potential to do something fun with colour, moving away from realism, that could help people feel good”, explained Rosie Brave.
How 3D printing comes into play…
One of the main challenges in this journey was to reduce the manufacturing cost. Rosie explained that the standard NHS prosthesis is hot, heavy and sweaty to wear. In order to overcome heaviness and hotness, they started to create things that were breathable, with an open structure that would let the air pass through. This structure is also part of the decorative element, but manufacturing it is quite tricky.
“That’s where 3D printing comes in, but unfortunately the cost of 3D printing in silicone is currently prohibitive, and people really want something affordable. They’re spending a fortune on specialised bras after surgery, and if they want additional prostheses from the NHS they have to buy them. The costs add up, so making an expensive product, even if it would be more comfortable to wear, didn’t really sit right.”
Since their project becomes a reality, both students have received £15,000 from Spark, a Design Council programme that supports UK product innovation, to develop their product idea from concept to reality.
Jodi Jess, a breast cancer survivor also decided to join the adventure of Sam and Rosie as a model. “On 15 January this year, aged 40, I was told the pretty shitty news that cancer had decided to take up residence in my breast and lymph nodes. To say this wasn’t exactly how I intended to see in the New Year was an understatement! Those that knew me well knew that I would have no intention other than to fight this all the way with my usual humour, gold shoes, fur, sequins and [prosthetic breast] leopard print!”
Today, the small team thinks at making their concept global and enables other women to benefit from this prosthetic.
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