Provider ‘Scanning Events’ Promote Custom Breast Prosthetic

Provider ‘Scanning Events’ Promote Custom Breast Prosthetic – ocularist aids patients disfigured by disease or trauma

Byline: Gail Walker

As founder of the Facial Restoration Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, ocularist L. Daniel Eaton works with patients who have been disfigured by disease or trauma. For these people, the lifelike facial prostheses Eaton creates – noses, eyes, eyelids with lashes, skin – often not only restore their appearance but also give back their self-esteem and strengthen their emotional health.

One such patient, who was also a breast cancer survivor, asked Eaton why doctors couldn’t work the same way to craft a post-mastectomy prosthesis. Her question led to a decade of conversations and input from other survivors, and resulted in Eaton’s development of a lightweight custom breast prosthesis. “Our initial research started with survivors,” Eaton says, noting that ContourMed, the company formed to market the product, “continues to listen to these women for further product developments.”

The anatomically accurate breast prosthetics are created using technology developed at the Arkansas Cancer Research Center at UAMS. A computer-generated, 3-D laser scan is taken of the patient’s intact breast and chest wall. “The scanning technology captures the exact shape, slope and contour of the intact breast” so that it can be mirrored for a perfect match, explains Mimi San Pedro, vice president of sales and marketing for ContourMed, Little Rock, Ark.

The incision site is also scanned, and the back of the prosthesis is crafted “to reflect every unique detail of the chest wall,” San Pedro continues, so that women can wear their bra of choice. Once the form is created, its resilient “skin” is filled with lightweight foam. The custom-fitted forms come in 16 skin tones, and a recent enhancement uses a combination of magnets and adhesive to give survivors a secure form that attaches directly to the chest wall. The wafer-thin magnets are nickel-plated for safe skin contact, and the adhesive discs use hypoallergenic tape.

In two-day “scanning events” for women’s boutiques and HME providers who offer the custom product – currently about 80 across the country – ContourMed fitting technicians set up the scanning equipment at the store or showroom to educate interested customers. “During these two days, survivors and their families can come in and get a briefing on the process and the technology for free,” says San Pedro. “If they choose, they can also be scanned that day, again at no charge.” Each session, including scanning, takes less than 30 minutes.

Eunice Walker, owner of Special Touch by Eunice in Huntsville, Ala., held a scanning event in May where 19 customers received scans over two days. Walker, who is a 16-year breast cancer survivor, sent a pre-event newsletter to her customer base, and says news coverage and walk-ins added to her marketing success. “It was awesome,” Walker said.

According to San Pedro, to build interest “before we come, we call on the medical community in the area to detail them on the product and tell them where they can send patients to look at it. We make presentations to local survivor groups. We do call-in broadcasts and print media and press releases in each market where a provider is hosting one of these events.”

ContourMed was recently named a winner of the Medical Design Excellence Awards for 2003, an international program that recognizes contributions and advancements in medical devices. San Pedro, a breast cancer survivor herself, will be featured as one of the “Yoplait 25 Champions” in the October 2003 SELF magazine. Yoplait has partnered with the magazine and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to recognize 25 “ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the fight against breast cancer.”

For more information, call ContourMed at 888/301-0520 or visit the company’s Web site at www.contourmed.com.

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