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Warmth for breast cancer survivors

Providing warmth for breast cancer survivors

Students design thermal bra for mastectomy patients

Contact: ​Jeff Johnston

Breast cancer survivors who have undergone mastectomies with prosthetic reconstruction often feel cold due to their silicone implants, which do not retain body heat and can be affected by the winter chill. Four Central Michigan University students have created an insulated bra to address this problem.

Entrepreneurship majors Emily Austin and Haley Rusicka partnered with fashion merchandising and design senior Augusta Overy and apparel product development and merchandising technology graduate student Sue Wroblewski to create insulated bra prototypes and Embrace — the company they pitched in the 2017 New Venture Competition.


It's important that the textiles are very soft and comfortable because many breast cancer survivors have sensitivity," said Wroblewski, who works as the Center for Merchandising and Design Technology research lab coordinator. "It needs to be insulated, and it also needs to protect you from the wind. We were trying to find textiles that would work in that situation. To meet these needs, we developed a multilayer concept."

The idea originated with CMU alumna Jodie Faber, a breast cancer survivor.

“I noticed that I was cold all the time,” Faber said. “It was because of the implants. When they get cold, they stay cold. When they stay cold, they make the core of your body cold.”

Faber was using hand warmers, which often burned her skin. She shared her idea with Spectrum Health Innovations, which reached out to Austin and Rusicka.

“This project has really changed my senior year,” Rusicka said. “Having the full reins to take whatever direction that we as a team feels is right has not only given me confidence to make decisions, but the knowledge and experience to know what and what not to do.

Throughout the project’s development, Anthony Lazzaro, a CMU alumnus and Spectrum Health Innovations product development specialist, served as the Embrace team’s mentor and liaison in the months leading up to the competition.

The team also was mentored by Maureen MacGillivray, who is a faculty member in the fashion merchandising and design program.

At the competition, the Embrace team was awarded $250 for second runner-up pitch.

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