New affordable breasts for cancer survivors

Nneile Nkholise.
Nneile Nkholise.

Nneile Nkholise's durable breast prosthetic devices have come to the rescue of dozens of women who have had their breasts removed due to cancer.

The 30-year-old Lesotho-born mechanical engineer said the idea came during her master's research work at the Central University of Technology, where she was investigating the additives used in making facial prosthetics.

"My research entailed me going to hospitals and talking to patients. I realised that there was a great need for it [breast prosthetics]," Nkholise said.

Produced through iMed Tech, Nkholise has in just two years provided breasts to more than 150 women for as little as R900 to R3300, depending on the size of the prosthetic.

The prosthetic breasts are designed using 3D technology and moulded with biocompatible silicone. "We measure a woman's chest to ensure that the new breasts ... match their body," she said.

Nkholise said her company uses qualified prosthetists to ensure that the silicone breast fitted the patient correctly and comfortably. "The patient can use glue to attach the prosthetic, but some do not like this method, so they prefer to put the prosthetics in a bra."

The glue lasts for only a day.

Nkholise said the prosthetic breasts are made to look as natural as possible. "They feel like real breasts because we use a different combination of materials to make them. We also scan the patient's chest to make sure that the skin tone is the same," she said.

Nkholise said she took a gamble with her pension and funded her business. She was a mechanical technologist at the department of public works when she left to start her business in 2015.

"I needed R600 000 to start up my business. I used my pension, money from competitions I had won and I was also helped by the Innovation Hub."

She is now a finalist for the industrialist of the year award for the All Africa Business Leaders Awards, which will be held in November.

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