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Raleigh high school students create pad that detects cervical cancer


By Rick Armstrong

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    RALEIGH, North Carolina (WRAL) — A group of Raleigh high school students that created a reusable menstrual pad to save lives is well on their way to changing the world.

The teenagers from Enloe High School in Raleigh were among 10 winning teams in the country selected for a healthcare innovation program.

The Enloe students teamed up for a national medical competition to tackle a health issue many women face — access to reproductive healthcare and feminine hygiene products. Their work could be lifesaving.

“We saw that there was a lack of information on reproductive health,” said Esther Ghim, a senior at Enloe.

They agreed on a goal.

“Give menstruating people access to healthcare within the safety and comfort of their own homes,” said Anisha Roy, an Enloe graduate.

They also wanted to reduce waste and environmental impact.

“So it had to be completely reusable so that people wouldn’t have to keep throwing it out so it wouldn’t accumulate more waste,” said Ishita Bafna, a sophomore at Enloe.

“Sensible” is the name of their menstrual pad. Beyond its usual use, the pad tests blood from a person’s flow to detect cervical diseases.

“They would be able to know whether or not they have a risk for getting cervical cancer or an STD like HPV,” Roy said.

The students said many families aren’t comfortable discussing women’s health issues.

“We realize that talking about it is the first step to breaking down that barrier,” Roy said.

The big challenge was creating the device itself.

“Ishita, she learned to sew in a week to create our first prototype, like she was just passionate about this,” said Shailen Fofaria, a sophomore at Enloe.

The students’ passion led them to meet with MIT experts, and with the national competition they won a $7,500 Lemelson-MIT grant to help them fund their project and develop the pad for real-world use.

It’s a lesson for all students.

“When students have access to opportunity and when they’re supported through those opportunities, they’re an example of what’s possible,” said Rupen Fofaria, the team advisor.

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