The chilly secret behind mastectomies

FFL: Mastectomy bra

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - There are three million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. About 33 percent of those women have had a double mastectomy.

There's one side effect that women rarely talk about. Breast cancer survivor Jodie Faber discovered that the hard way when she jumped into a chilly Lake Michigan.

“My breasts were really bright red when I got out of the water. Freezing cold," she said. "Couldn't figure out what was wrong.

"It was the first time I really experienced the visual of just how cold implants can be. They literally are like ice packs."

A mastectomy removes all the tissue and blood supply, leaving women with only skin and implants. Jodie says as a result, there is no way to keep that part of your body warm. “When you're that cold and your core is that cold, you will do just about anything to make yourself warm."

Jodie’s plastic surgeon suggested the popular practice of putting hand warmers in her bra, which didn't quite work for her. "They were really warm and I ended up burning my skin."

From then on, Jodie was on a mission. "Wouldn't it be great if somebody invented a bra that would keep those implants warm?"

Jodie pitched her idea to Spectrum Health Innovations. The center is designed to help develop ideas into products that improve health care.

"The reason we exist is to help solve their problems and create their ideas into reality," said Anthony Lazzarro with Spectrum Health Innovations. He and his team members started working on creating a bra for mastectomy patients.

They partnered with Central Michigan University students to help create a bra that would keep women like Jodie warm. “That’s why we're really excited about this, because we know it's a need right now today for these women," Lazzarro said.

Jodie was heavily involved in the development of the bra. "I wanted something that would make me feel normal, feminine and normal," she said. "The issue is you need to keep the cold out, then you don't have a problem with the implants.”

Jodie gave input on everything from design to fabric.

"It's actually three layers. The outer layer keeps the cold out, the inner layer is an insulating layer to keep the heat in and the layer closest to the skin is for comfort."

Now, nearly two years later, Lazzarro says the thermal bra is almost ready for market. "Our hope is to license this technology out to that team of students and have this be their full-time business," he said, so that more women just like Jodie can live comfortably once again in their own skin.

The thermal bra is expected to be on the market for women to purchase in early 2018.

If you’d like to stay up to date with the thermal bra process and receive an email when it’s ready for purchase you can contact Spectrum Health Innovations at innovations@spectrumhealth.org.

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© 2017 WZZM-TV


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