Empowering women to become the experts of their own bodies
Timeline: Sept—Dec 2019
Project type: Individual
My role: User research, industrial design, UX design, System design, Market research
Breast cancer is more common than we think. About 1 in 8 U.S. women (~13%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. As of January 2020, there are more than 3.5 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. 1 in 39 women (~3%) will die from breast cancer. However, if breast cancer can be diagnosed at stage 0, nobody has to die from it.
Women don't have much control over their breast cancer screening: most of them don't start until they are 40 and screening is not accessible outside of a hospitable setting. Medical screening like Mammogram is very expensive and radiative. Women needs an accessible and affordable tool to do breast cancer screening safely and early.
Bossom is a non-invasive, low-cost, women-centered, and empowering breast ultrasound device for early detection of breast cancer. It uses a compressive ultrasound technology to enable women to check their breasts in a non-invasive way. The integrated mobile application removes anxiety and sense of vulnerability by navigating women through the step-by-step scanning process and by empowering women with information about breast cancer.
How might I design an affordable, safe, and anxiety-free screening product to help women detect breast cancer in early stages?
Breast cancer was a foreign concept to many people until someone they know has it. I learned it from my mom's best friend who had invasive breast cancer that made her lose all her hair and one of her breasts. After hearing her story, I researched breast cancer and the number shocked me:
One out of eight women in the US will have breast cancer in their lifetime.
The death rate of invasive breast cancer is 3%.
Breast cancer is the 2nd most popular cancer that kills women.
More than 3.8 million women in the US had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
The survival rate for stage 4 breast cancer is 22% while it's nearly 100% for stage 0.
Beyond intensive desk research, We interviewed 15 people, including journalism professionals, professors in media studies, researchers in information disorder, and general media consumers from teenagers to adults, to learn about their experience with misinformation. Here are some key insights:
1. Breast cancer is a nerve-wrecking topic: Many women are traumatized after having breast cancer. Even the screening process is uncomfortable and dehumanizing to many. It's important to remove anxiety for and humanize users.
2. Women don't have control over their breast cancer screening: The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends women between 50-70 and are at average risk of breast cancer get a mammogram every two years. Women between 40 and 49 should talk to their doctors about when to start and how often to get a mammogram. This doesn't give women any say on their breast cancer screening.
3. Traditional screening method is expensive and radiative: Mammogram is the most reliable method to screen breast cancer in the medical setting. However, it is very expensive and radiative. It's not very accessible to women living in underdeveloped areas and it can give women breast cancer when they don't already have it.
4. Alternative technology shines light to home-use screening method: Ultrasound has been a safe alternative to mammogram for pregnant women and those with dense breasts. The existing products of portable ultrasound device opens the opportunity for women to do breast cancer screening at home with proper training.
5. People don't want to see sonography images unless there's a baby in their tummy: Many portable ultrasound devices show users the sonogram in real time. However, the diagram is complicated and anxiety-inducing because people don't want to see bad things in their body.
6. There's a general lack of awareness of breast cancer: as mentioned above, because breast cancer is such a heavy topic and many schools don't cover it, it's hard for women to educate themselves on the condition. It's important to give them the knowledge and tools so that they can become the experts of their own bodies.
After analyzing research insights, I identified my target audience to be women in developing counties who don't have access to good healthcare and breast cancer screening resources. My design opportunity is to create a low-cost, accurate, and non-invasive personal ultrasound device that reduces anxiety and normalizes breast care routine with the help of a mobile application.
Medical products don't have to look medical
Most ultrasound devices on the market look like the ones in the hospitals. However, my research shows medical products give people anxiety and fear. I decided to design a medical product that doesn't look medical at all.
Design to humanize, to dignify, to do no harm
The shape of Bossom is inspired by the organic and beautiful shape of women bodies. The design takes a cosmetic product approach instead of a medical one to provide a sense of security and dignity.
Iterate fast with ugly prototypes
In order to create an ergonomic user experience and maximize usability, I 3D printed several iterations of the design and taped them around to mock up button layouts.
Emerging technology improves affordability
According to a research paper in the Netherlands, putting a compressive coded mask in front of the Piezo sensors can decrease the number of sensor needed from thousands to one, which brings the cost of Bossom down significantly.
Turning user needs into app features
After empathizing with user physical and emotional needs, I developed 4 main features for the app: Scanning, Talk to Doctor, Community, and Calendar.
If I want to help others to become "sonographers", I have to be one first
I studied breast ultrasound scanning patterns meticulously through articles and videos. In order to try it out, I visited a women's clinic in Seattle.
Nobody wants to see what's inside of their body unless there's a baby in there.
The existing products are not consumer-facing. They target at traveling doctors and nurses. Cross-analyzed three home-use ultrasound products, I found that all of them put all the emphasis on the scanning part of the user experience, but not addressing what's before, after, and even beyond scanning. There's a general lack of connection between users and doctors, and a tendency to overwhelm users with too much complex data and jargons. Also, the lack of a specific users group results in the design being too general.
Translating complex procedures into simple instruction
Breast Ultrasound scanning might seem technical and difficult. After diving deep into breast ultrasound exams, I used simple graphics and animation to help users understand how it works.
Design should augment, respect, humanize, and dignify users.
Nobody enjoys mammograms. The process is painful, cold, and humiliating for those who go through it. There's no privacy and comfort. Women deserve better. They deserve a private, controllable, easy, and affordable way to get their breasts screened for cancer. They need to be understood, cared for, and respected. Their emotional needs are just as important as their health needs. Designing Bossom is the process of empathizing with female users and advocating for their emotional needs.