Julian Rios Cantu almost lost his mother to breast cancer after a diagnosis in 2013, and the traumatic experience inspired him to develop a game-changing new invention.
The 19-year-old Mexican student has invented a bra, alongside friend and business partner Antonio Torres, after witnessing their mother and grandmother respectively battle with breast cancer. But it’s not just any old bra: this item of underwear is fitted with a sophisticated technological mechanism that can detect early symptoms of cancerous tumors in the breasts.
Cantu’s mother’s symptoms were not detected early enough. An inaccurate early diagnosis led them to believe that the cancer was malignant, but this sadly wasn’t true. Cantu’s mother survived, but lost both of her breasts and suffered extensive emotional and physical trauma as a result.
Cantu’s bond with his mother is now stronger than ever, and the tenacious teen is determined that no woman should have to go through the same experience.
He appreciates that whilst his mom did suffer, she was still one of the lucky ones: “I realized that if that was the case for a woman with private insurance and a prevention mindset, then for most women in developing countries, like Mexico where we’re from, the outcome could’ve not been a mastectomy but death,” Cantu told TechCrunch.
Cantu does not believe that underprivileged women should be made more vulnerable to perilous health risks than wealthier women. He also wants the new bra to be affordable.
This is one extraordinary young man: while many teens are petulantly chugging soda and gnawing on cold pizza in front of video game screens, Cantu is potentially changing lives and prognoses for women of all demographics, the world over.
Once the decision had been made to push forward with the new invention, Cantu took time to research breast cancer extensively: he needed to know exactly what he was dealing with. His next steps were less labor-intensive. He patented his idea for a cancer-detecting bra, roped some intelligent friends into the business model, and began product development.
Cantu and Torres set up a website for the newly-named “Higia Technologies,” and the bra already has a number of pre-sales.
The bra is being named “EVA.” The website describes the bra as “the first intelligent, portable, and non-invasive wearable designed to detect abnormalities in the thermal patterns of the breast, an indicator for the possible presence of breast cancer.”
The bra uses sophisticated thermal sensors, and the data collected maps heat distributions across a patient’s breasts: tumors emit more heat than “normal” tissue, and therein lies the diagnostic tool.
This preliminary diagnosis would eliminate the need to go to a doctor, which, for many women with limited access to healthcare, could mean the difference between survival and a terminal diagnosis.
The bra’s technology is reliable. Cantu has already overseen extensive testing in order to trial, test, and better understand the technology. Higia Technologies reports that the EVA bra’s specificity is at 81.7%. 153 female volunteers were tested; 33 of the women already had breast cancer confirmed through mammogram or biopsy.
Breast cancer is a hugely personal, often private, and very emotional issue. The standardized technology of the EVA bra helps to erase the possibility of human error in self-diagnosis, especially when fear or paranoia may distort a woman’s engagement with her own body’s health.
Cantu, Torres, and Higia Technologies still want to conduct further clinical trials in Mexico.
Higia has received enthusiastic funding from several sources. In 2017, the ambitious company received $120,000 from investors Y Combinator, an American parent company who are also responsible for Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe, and Reddit.
The industrious Cantu was awarded Mexico’s Presidential Medal for Science and Technology, and Forbes Magazine Mexico even named Higia Technologies one of “30 Most Promising Businesses of 2018.”