Increasing breast cancer rates, combined with concurrent decreasing mortality rates, more women in today’s society are living with effects of breast cancer treatment into their later years.
This project aims to specifically manufacture a device capable of providing therapeutic massage to women suffering from breast cancer-related lymphoedema in a comfortable, low profile, portable silent form.
Lymphoedema is a chronic, painful and progressive pathological condition and common side effect for women who have had breast cancer treatment and can appear months or years after treatment. Many women undergo surgery to remove lymph nodes or undergo radiation to the chest and underarms. This can result in permanent damage which overtime can result in backup of the body’s fluid.
Traditional treatment and maintenance strategies place a large financial burden of both patients and the healthcare system. It means there is a need to regularly visit a clinician for lymphatic-drainage, and often wearing compression bandages which are unattractive, cumbersome and limiting. It also requires the patient to remain motionless during treatment.
The lymph sleeve incorporates ‘artificial muscle’ technology into a wearable compression garment that gently massages the affected areas, mimicking normal lymphatic massage techniques and relieving lymphatic flow. It is the first wearable device that will allow women to receive treatment for breast cancer-related lymphoedema while they continue to perform activities of daily living.
This project aims to address these challenges and will use innovative technologies to revolutionise the way lymphoedema is managed.
Not only is it set to make a huge difference in the lives of breast cancer survivors, but has the ability to boost the knowledge economy by sparking niche, high-value, manufacturing industries.
This Global Challenges project comprises a multi-level, interdisciplinary team of biochemists, engineers, clinicians and lymphoedema therapists. It also has the support of BSN Medical.
Professor Julie Steele is the Director of the Biomechanics Research Laboratory (BRL) in the School of Medicine within the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health.
Professor Geoff Spinks is the Leader of Manufacturing Innovation within Global Challenges. He is also a Senior Researcher with the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI).
Dr Sina Naficy is an Associate Research Fellow with IPRI, with expertise in actuating polymers and innovative materials. He works with enhanced physical and mechanical properties for applications in innovative medical devices.
Pictured right: An initial prototype of the ‘Lymph Sleeve'