A postgraduate researcher in Digital Art and Technology is launching an innovative product it is hoped will transform life for women who have had breast cancer surgery.

Rosie Brave, who is studying towards a ResM in the School of Art, Design and Architecture and will graduate in 2020, is one half of the team behind Boost Innovations.

Rosie, working with her business co-founder Sam Jackman, has reimagined prosthetic breasts in a bid to make women more comfortable after breast cancer surgery. Inspired by her mother’s experiences after breast cancer, Sam wanted to challenge the idea that a breast prosthesis needed to imitate skin-tone or have a nipple. Instead, she spotted the potential for it to be colourful and reflective of the wearer’s personality. So the two joined forces to turn idea into reality, producing a range of colourful and decorative breast forms.

1 in 8 women will have a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime according to charity Breast Cancer Care and breast removal surgery (mastectomy) has a profound emotional and psychological impact on women.

After speaking to dozens of women in the UK to explore their experiences of life after breast cancer surgery, Rosie started using cut-out patterns, abandoning the idea that the breast form needed to be solid, and in so doing, addressing wearers’ common complaints of their prosthesis being heavy, hot and sweaty to wear.

She said: “We wanted to do something to help make a small positive difference in the daily lives of women. Creating something colourful that matched the wearer’s mood or personality was a good place to start, and once we understood that we could enhance comfort by altering the structure of the breast form, this seemed another great way to improve women’s daily experiences. We named our product the Feel Good Breast Form, a play on words to reflect its uplifting and comfortable qualities.

“The cut-out designs allow air to circulate, and because there is less material, it weighs less. This makes it great for swimming and women who have an active lifestyle.”

Sam added: “We chose a soft mouldable silicone rather than using the silicone gel and plastic film found in standard breast prostheses because these have a limited shelf-life before they split, and silicone is not recyclable. We wanted to create a product that would last longer and lower the impact on the environment.”

Environmental benefits aside, the product is already being heralded as an important step forward by medical professionals. Dr Jim Steel of the Primrose Unit, Service Line Director for Breast Services at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, said:

"I believe this is a really important innovation for women: an external breast prosthesis is very personal and each design has its pros and cons.

“Over the years the designs have remained very similar. All of them speak of the need to hide, to cover up, almost to pretend. There is no doubt that they are really helpful to many women but the choice is limited.

“To me Boost is something new, yet is just as valid a choice as the traditional. I imagine a woman wearing this might feel she is saying ‘I am not afraid. I am still a woman with my individual style, with hope, with a sense of humour, and I'm not afraid to be different’. I like the way that sportswomen who might find a heavy sweaty prosthetic a hindrance could choose a much lighter and airy bit of silicon. I like the uncompromising colour.

“I would love this to be a choice that women in my centre could make in years to come."

Rosie and Sam have launched a Kickstarter.com crowdfunding campaign that runs until Thursday 1 August, hoping to raise at least £20,000 to develop and start producing the breast form in a range of sizes. To find out more visit www.wewearboost.com/kickstarter

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