Warwick Manufacturing Group

New breast cancer mannequin revolutionises the teaching of breast cancer awareness.

The first day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October 2003, saw the launch of a unique, highly accurate, breast cancer mannequin, giving women learning how to spot breast lumps a training aid that can closely mimic what a range of breast lumps actually look and feel like.

The quest to create this unique breast cancer teaching aid began when Black Country Business Link introduced three highly motivated disability nurses to Dr Nick Tucker, senior polymer engineer at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), to help them create a teaching aid that would assist them in teaching breast cancer awareness and self-inspection to people with learning difficulties.

As a delivery partner within the Polymer Cluster initiative, Warwick Manufacturing Group’s involvement meant that assistance was made available in the form of Dr Nick Tucker’s time and expertise. The final result is something that is of great significance to all women.

The mannequin consists of a fibreglass torso, which can be fitted with four different interchangeable types of breast implants, all containing different tissue anomalies (lumps). The torso with the silicone rubber breast implants is covered by a latex covering of ‘skin’, which makes the model appear and feel true-to-life.

The device enables individuals to learn self-examination. It benefits all women but is of particular benefit to those with learning difficulties whose limited reading skills limit how much they can benefit from many breast cancer self-examination training methods. The mannequin will also be particularly useful when working with women with cultural inhibitions that otherwise impede them learning about self-examination.

Clinical trials are underway to investigate the use of the mannequins in a GP Surgery, a Residential Home for people with learning disabilities and a Cancer Treatment Centre. Early results of those trials have been very positive. The nurses and Dr Tucker have also already begun investigating the development of a similar model for testicular cancer.

The mannequin provides a unique breast cancer training experience for women – but it has already been a unique experience for Stourbridge machining company Micron Machining. Normally the company dealt with metal-based precision light and medium engineering but Dr Tucker and the nurses persuaded the company to give them free use of their equipment and skilled staff to create the prototype main mannequin frames and skins to their design and concept. The company now hopes to get a diversification grant to assist a full production run of the device.