Research to create the ultimate bra for women with breast cancer

A research campaign to create lingerie that offers the right support and comfort for women undergoing treatment for breast cancer has been praised by people working at some of the biggest bra manufacturers in the UK, and garnered support from a leading surgeon.

Two years ago, Professor Gillian Proctor, who has led the world-renowned Contour Fashion course at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) for two decades, was dealt the devastating news that she had stage two breast cancer and would need surgery.

It opened her eyes to how problematic it is to find correctly fitted lingerie immediately after an operation.

With two women being diagnosed with breast cancer every 10 minutes in the UK, Professor Proctor has now made it her personal mission to find solutions by setting up the national research group called the DMU Medical Forum.

Last week, representatives from industry, medicine and DMU came together to hear about Professor Proctor’s proposals.

After receiving unanimous support, Professor Proctor now plans to put together a council which will meet on a regular basis to see how the ‘power of three’ – industry, medicine and patients - can drive the DMU research to ultimately benefit tens of thousands of women every year.

As well as Professor Proctor telling her story about the forum, there were presentations from Melissa Holden, a third year studying Contour Fashion Communication, and recent Contour Fashion graduate Vicky Rose Evans, who is studying a Masters in Textile Design, Technology and Innovation, who have both joined the Medical Forum team.

Dr Nick Ibery, a venture capitalist who specialises in UK healthcare policy and regulation, also took to the floor, along with Mr Jaroslaw Krupa, one of the country’s leading breast surgeons, based at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital.

Industry representatives from Tesco F+F, Marks and Spencer, Next, George and Figleaves lingerie were also present.

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One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime and each year 55,000 women are given the news that they have breast cancer.

Professor Proctor, now an Associate Professor for Enterprise, said: “Every good story starts with a ‘why me?’. And I guess if anyone had to get breast cancer, why not me? Why not someone who is in a position to pull together people who can effect a change.

“I approached this like any woman in the street in terms of how do you go about finding a post-surgery bra?

“There is a big gap in the market here and we need to activate change by bringing together medics, breast cancer patients, the industry that we work with very cohesively here at DMU, and involve the course and the students, to work holistically to solve these issues.”

Mr Krupa said: “I think it is a unique project that is helping to bring together specialists from very different areas of expertise so that we can look at ways of supporting patients after breast surgery and developing new products to help women after going through this treatment.”

Emily Dean, a designer for Tesco F+F and a DMU alumna, said: “For me, I think the Medical Forum is a fantastic opportunity for us all to collaborate. As a designer, I do not have lots of free time to research, so to be able to have access to all these people is a very exciting opportunity to bring the right product to market.”

Julia Mercer, from M&S, said: “This is amazing. It is the first time we have brought all different types of industries together and all different types of people. This is a complex subject but if we can all work together this will really make a difference to real women.”

Tori Shelton, another DMU alumna who works for lingerie brand Figleaves, added: “I think the Medical Forum is a great idea and I think Gillian’s personal approach is amazing.”

Lysa Jayne Hearst, Lingerie Tech Manager at George, said: “Gillian is doing something really interesting and we should all be on board.”

Master’s student Vicky said: “Being a part of the DMU Medical Forum allows me to help make a change for women. I am passionate about it.”

Third year Contour Fashion Communication student Melissa added: “I want to be involved and be at the heart of this game-changer. I also want to put all I have learned into practice and change women’s lives.”

The DMU Medical Forum is currently inviting more breast cancer patients to come forward and tell their stories to help with the research. You can get in touch by emailing medicalforum@dmu.ac.uk

Posted on: Friday 20 December 2019

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