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Woman's back: the first backpack specially designed for women who have undergone breast cancer surgery

Foto: Woman's Back

Foto: Woman's Back

Woman'sBack is the first company in the world to specialize in backpacks designed specifically for women who have had all or part of their lymph glands removed due to breast cancer. The Barcelona-based firm has developed seven models that take weight and pressure off the affected shoulder and armpit. The backpacks, which can be bought online in Spain and the rest of Europe, are the brainchild of Maria Prandi, a hiking and outdoor enthusiast. Despite having breast cancer surgery when she was 50, she had no intention of giving up hiking and climbing, but medical staff warned her to avoid putting weight on the arm and shoulder of the operated side. Her solution? She designed a backpack that would allow her to carry everything she needed on a hike without the risk of suffering one of breast cancer surgery's main post-op problems: lymphedema. This inflammation of the arm, which can become chronic, occurs when there is an abnormal accumulation of lymph (a protein-rich liquid) underneath the skin.

Determined not to let this stop her, Prandi visited Esportiva Aksa, a company specializing in sports gear, who helped her perfect her prototype and get the project off the drawing board. Together they developed a fastening system that balances weight distribution while eliminating one of the two shoulder straps. Which shoulder strap remains depends on which breast has been operated on: if it is the right breast, the right shoulder strap is removed; if it is the left breast, the left strap. This strap is brought under the armpit and crosses diagonally to the other side of the waist, while the sternum strap crosses diagonally to the other side. This means the weight is then borne by the hip belt.

"By following just three steps, the backpack can be used to carry weight while taking all pressure off the operated side," said Lali Costa, one of the people behind the project, alongside Prandi and Jordi Costa, owner of Esportiva Aksa. The backpack can not only be used for hiking but also for commuting to work or to carry heavy objects such as laptops.

For the moment, the product is sold through the website (https://womansback.com/) and customers can choose from 7 models from either the Alpina or Montane brand, although ultimately the entrepreneurs would like to create a backpack with their own brand. "It is a personalized, tailor-made product," explained Costa, a Law student at the UOC. She presented the project at the latest SpinUOC, the UOC's entrepreneurship event, for which she received the second highest number of votes from the audience.

Before launching the product on the market, its developers tested it on a group of post-op breast cancer patients at Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau in Barcelona during several sessions of Nordic walking. This sport is very beneficial for women who have had surgery as it helps reactivate the lymph system and prevent lymphedema.

The backpack is also useful for people who are missing an arm or have undergone coronary bypass surgery. Woman’s Back is currently sold in Spain and Europe, but the founders have not ruled out selling it worldwide. However, entering new markets would require more capital and investment.