Supporting excellence in
patient care, research and education.
April 17, 2018

New bra-like medical accessory makes radiation therapy much less painful for breast cancer patients at the Cedars Cancer Centre of the MUHC

Revolutionary accessory significantly reduces burns suffered by large-breasted patients
Montreal, April 17, 2018 – The Cedars Cancer Foundation announced today that it has partnered with The CURE Foundation and ‘The Bell’ Fund to provide three-year funding for the Rad.Onc.Bra, a revolutionary medical accessory, developed at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), that protects women with large breasts from the severe burns often caused by radiation therapy.
 
The Rad.Onc. Bra is the brainchild of MUHC radio-oncology technologists Nancie Raffis and Suzanne Rossel. “We were increasingly upset seeing the severe burns that our large-breasted patients were suffering when undergoing radiotherapy for breast cancer,” explained Raffis. “These unnecessary side effects were making their treatment more painful and were adding complications and delays to their recovery. So, in 2010, we decided to do something about it.”
 
“We knew that placing a breast higher on the chest wall during radiotherapy treatments had been shown to alleviate these painful side effects,” added Rossel. “With that in mind, we set-out to design a medical accessory that would optimize the positioning of the breast, immobilize it, and therefore reduce the unnecessary burning, inflammation and dermatitis that large-breasted women usually suffer.”
 
Raffis and Rossel teamed-up with Diane Rousseau, a medical garment specialist who, for over 20 years, created compressive garments for lymphedema patients. Together, they developed and tested a series of prototype garments, as part of a research protocol in collaboration with Cedars Cancer Centre radiation oncologists.
 
For the next five years, with the financial support of the Cedars Cancer Foundation and ‘The Bell’ Fund, the team continually tested and improved the accessory, making it less costly to manufacture, more user-friendly for radio-oncology technologists, and even more effective for patients. Finally, in 2017, the Rad.Onc.Bra was born: a reversible, bra-like, garment made of expandable nylon and spandex, that holds the breast in an optimal position for radiotherapy.
 
“The Rad.Onc.Bra confirms that patient-centred innovation may begin with a specific need, but it truly takes shape when people collaborate to perfect an idea and bring it to life,” underscored Martine Alfonso, Interim President and Executive Director of the MUHC. “I would like to congratulate all the parties involved in developing the concept, testing prototypes and funding the fabrication of this important medical accessory.” 
 
An invention that changes lives
 
“I have been working with the Rad.Onc.Bra team since 2011, and the accessory they have developed has become a ‘must’ in our hospital,” says Dr. Tarek Hijal, Acting Director of the Division of Radiation Oncology at the MUHC. “Their invention changes lives, and we would never consider treating a patient who fits the profile without one. One day soon, we hope it will be available across Quebec.”
 
“Our hospital treats more than 700 breast cancer patients annually, and we are committed to providing each and every one of them with the highest level of care and treatment,” says Dr. Armen Aprikian, Chief of the Cancer Care Mission at the MUHC. “We are therefore incredibly proud that two members of our radiation oncology team showed this level of dedication to our patients and to our cause.”
 
“The Rad.Onc.Bra is a testament to excellence and innovation in cancer treatment and care,” adds Dr. Sarkis Meterissian, surgical oncologist and Director of the MUHC Breast Centre. “I sincerely congratulate the Rad.Onc.Bra team for their ingenuity, perseverance and professionalism.”
 
“The Cedars Cancer Foundation helps the Cedars Cancer Centre of the MUHC to raise the bar in cancer treatment and care, and this medical accessory has the potential to make a huge difference in patients’ lives,” says Mr. Mark Saykaly, Chair of the Board. “We are delighted to have been able to support these women and this project.”
 
Adds Judy Martin, Founder of ‘The Bell’ Fund and a breast cancer survivor, “When we first met with Nancie, Suzanne and Diane, we knew they had developed a first-rate medical aid that would have an enormous impact for women undergoing radiotherapy for breast cancer, but more importantly, we were impressed with their passion for their patients, which aligns beautifully with our ‘patients first’ motto.”
 
A donation from The CURE Foundation will fund the Rad.Onc.Bra for three more years
 
Thanks to a $75,000 donation from The CURE Foundation, production of the Rad.Onc.Bra can continue, and the needs of patients at the Cedars Cancer Centre of the MUHC will be met for the next three years.
 
“As a foundation dedicated to exploring all avenues in the fight against breast cancer, CURE is proud to support this ground-breaking project,” says Robyn Dalton, Executive Director of The CURE Foundation.  “The commitment and perseverance of Nancie, Suzanne and Diane truly captivated us, and we are delighted to join forces with the Cedars Cancer Foundation and ‘The Bell’ Fund to keep this project going.”
 
“This has been a long but extremely gratifying experience,” says Rossel. “We are incredibly thankful to the many doctors who encouraged us throughout the process, to the technologists and women who helped us test the accessory over the years, and to the generous donors who have made it possible to supply it to hundreds of patients free of charge.”
 
“We feel rewarded for our efforts every day,” adds Raffis. “One of my patients underwent radiotherapy without the Rad.Onc.Bra, and, years later, with the Rad.Onc.Bra. The difference was like night and day. She had severe burns the first time around and none the second time around. Seeing this positive impact on the life of a patient is the biggest reward one can ask for.”

 
Adds co-creator Diane Rousseau, “Working with Suzanne and Nancie to develop the Rad.Onc.Bra has been an incredible experience. So far, we have helped nearly one hundred women at the Cedars Cancer Centre. Our vision is that, one day, the Rad.Onc.Bra will be available to every woman in Quebec who needs it.”

 
About the Cedars Breast Cancer Program and the Cedars Cancer Foundation
 
The Cedars Cancer Foundation supports excellence in breast cancer care, research and education. It has been a proud supporter of breast cancer patients at the MUHC for over 30 years, dating back to the establishment of the Cedars Breast Clinic of the MUHC, a world-class facility that brought together top medical teams from the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Montreal General Hospital, and whose legacy lives on at the Glen site. 
 
Through its philanthropic initiatives, the Foundation has raised public awareness and provided funding for state-of-the-art equipment, clinical facilities, ground-breaking research, and novel practices in patient care and education.  The Cedars Cancer Foundation is a proud partner of the Rossy Cancer Network, along with McGill University, the McGill University Health Centre, the Jewish General Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital Centre. The Rossy Cancer Network and its partners are committed to providing the highest standard of care and the best possible cancer experience to their patients.
 
The Cedars Cancer Centre of the MUHC treats more than 700 breast cancer patients every year. The mission of the Cedars Breast Cancer Program is to help the Cedars Cancer Centre provide the best possible care and support to breast cancer patients, through all stages of their cancer journey, and to promote excellence and innovation at every level. 
 
About The CURE Foundation
 
The CURE Foundation is a national foundation that provides funding for basic and clinical research for breast cancer. Its mission is to work in tandem with women and men, health professionals, other foundations and Canadian teaching hospitals to improve the outcome for those affected.
 



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