Lucy Grunfeld Comfi – A Postoperative Bra for Breast Cancer Rehabilitation
Tauira / StudentLucy Grunfeld
Kaitautoko / ContributorJyoti Kalyanji
Kaiako / LecturersLyn Garrett, Rodney Adank, Yueyun Song
A Postoperative Bra for Breast Cancer rehabilitation. The judges praised the projects ambition and commitment to provide an elegant, user centric solution while tackling a very real and emotive topic. The judges commented on empathetic user research and high quality design refinement through the prototyping journey.
Comfi is a postoperative bra designed to offer improved aftercare by prioritising comfort and a positive experience. Comfi reduces unnecessary trauma by accommodating each breast separately, with adjustable compression inserts targeted only to required areas.
In 2016, my godmother had a breast cancer procedure. The area she found most challenging to deal with throughout her entire breast cancer journey was recovery. In particular, wearing her “ugly and uncomfortable” postoperative bra for a year after her procedure made her feel “terrible”.
Although one in nine women have breast cancer removal procedures, current rehabilitation products remain overlooked and outdated, with designs that aren’t adaptable to patients’ changing needs and unable to help them manage the long-term side effects of their treatment. This design aims to improve quality of life and promote positive health outcomes.
Comfi has a cross-over shape that allows the patient to control each cup size separately (by adjusting the torso and shoulder fasteners) to accommodate different procedures and the weight and swelling fluctuations common throughout recovery. The 3D knitted materiality increases tactile comfort and allows a garment to be knitted seamlessly, essential as seamlines can irritate scar tissue further. It also allows for more customisation and waste reduction as only the required part is knitted. To increase adjustability, interchangeable uneven textured compression components that have a massaging effect on the skin are placed within integrated pockets in the bra. To increase comfort, these components are only targeted to the required areas.
Inspired by the difficult recovery of my godmother’s breast cancer experience, I engaged with patients, surgeons and specialists through surveys, interviews and focus groups to develop a solution that addressed the key needs of all stakeholders. Interviews with patients highlighted their negative wear experiences with existing products, with only 31.8% of participants choosing to sleep in their postoperative bra (even though they are recommended to be worn 24/7 for eight weeks after a procedure). This was often due to limited adjustability and an inability to find comfort in existing postoperative bras. Due to this, I began exploring adjustable compression methods to increase comfort and provide support throughout the various recovery stages.
Existing postoperative bras are designed predominantly as functional devices. Their appearances reflect their medical and short-term usage; thus, they have high visibility under clothing, limited choice in styles and colours and offer limited adjustability. Most commercially available postoperative bras provide compression everywhere. They are often made from elastic, plastic-based artificial fibres, which can cause adverse reactions in the body when worn for long periods. Comfi is knitted with natural yarns that offer breathable and antimicrobial properties. Comfi's cross-over shape also provides more adjustability and support than the standard centre front fasteners, which often consist of hook + eyes that are challenging to fasten with limited hand mobility.