Touchpoints: How My Mom Inspired a Medical Tactile Sensing Breakthrough

When Pressure Profile Systems (PPS) began targeting medical device applications for our capacitive tactile sensing technology, I didn’t realize just how many lives we might touch.

Roughly a decade ago, I witnessed my mother embark upon the harrowing several-month-long journey of obtaining a breast cancer diagnosis. This long, hard road was paved with the frustration of multiple mammograms, ultrasounds, and biopsies coupled with the hassle of trying to get referrals and second opinions. As if the fear of cancer wasn’t bad enough, the process of finding out definitively whether or not she had cancer proved to be almost as nerve-racking.

This life-changing experience left a permanent impression on me. Consequently, it served as the impetus for leveraging my knowledge of tactile pressure sensing to improve tools for early detection of breast cancer.

The resulting product—the SureTouch visual mapping system—draws inspiration from the efficacy of lump detection through the tactile nature of clinical breast exams. Through the use of PPS’s capacitive tactile sensor technology, the SureTouch system converts tissue elasticity measurements to electronic signals that, in turn, generate a 3-D map of lesions within uncompressed breast tissue. Upon detection of a lump, the SureTouch probe can estimate the size, shape, hardness, and location of the mass.

Thanks to integration of our capacitive tactile sensing technology, the SureTouch visual mapping system offers a pain- and radiation-free digital breast exam. By providing a patient-friendly tool and quantifiable data, the SureTouch has the potential to increase compliance with early detection methods and to identify cancerous lesions earlier.

As anyone in the medical device industry knows, bringing an innovative medical technology such as the SureTouch system to market is a process fraught with challenges and headaches. After all, once the rigorous regulatory hurdles have finally been cleared, you must educate physicians about the new technology and persuade them that your product is worth adopting.

So, to work in the medical device industry, you have to really believe in what you’re doing. There can be a lot of headaches and, often, it takes a while to be profitable as well. But the reward is in the knowledge that you’re making a difference. When you have women giving you unsolicited hugs and expressing their gratitude to you for developing a medical device, it makes the challenges associated with bringing the product to market a lot easier to bear. And my mother—healthy and doing fine 10 years later—is happy that something positive came out of her ordeal.

While the SureTouch is the project that perhaps I am most committed to because of my personal attachment to it, PPS is supporting the development of many other cutting-edge medical products that aim to enhance patient care. Through the customization and application of our capacitive tactile sensors, PPS is dedicated to capturing the sense of touch to make useful products that make a difference in the world. –Jae Son, CEO, Pressure Profile Systems