Applegate, nurse navigators and smart bras

Christina Applegate's recent diagnosis is just one of many stories about breast cancer in the news today.

Published August 4, 2008 6:40PM (EDT)

Reports of 36-year-old actress Christina Applegate undergoing treatment for breast cancer (fortunately, she's expected to make a full recovery) have coincided with -- and in some cases, elicited -- an abundance of other news about the disease today. Fox News pegs Applegate's diagnosis to five common breast cancer myths, which are alternately reassuring and scary. (Good news for women Applegate's age who are freaked out: Breast cancer is still quite uncommon in those under 50. Bad news for both women with no family history of cancer and men: You're still at risk.) Then there's the new study that shows recently diagnosed women struggle with the draining "emotional work" of disclosing their illness to friends and family, even when they don't have to send out a press release to let the whole world know. On the upside, those difficulties could potentially be alleviated by "nurse navigators" -- nurses who can help new patients negotiate both the emotional fallout of a diagnosis and the practicalities of meeting with an overwhelming number of medical professionals.

But here's perhaps the most intriguing breast cancer story of the day: Scientists are working on a "smart bra" that could detect early breast tumors and monitor how treatment is going for women who already have cancer. "The smart bra works using a microwave antennae system device which is woven into the fabric of the bra. The antennae picks up any abnormal temperature changes in the breast tissue, which are often associated with cancer cells." There are doubts about whether the technology is really there yet and whether such a bra would cause too many false positives -- detecting benign growths and "nonmalignant inflammatory changes" -- but researchers are hoping nevertheless that the bra will make it to market within "a couple of years." Cancer-screening bras may never replace mammograms, but they could at least turn out to be more reliable than self-exams.

By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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