For many women, getting a screening for breast cancer can be an unnerving, intimidating, uncomfortable experience–so uncomfortable that some women avoid it altogether. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 70 percent of American women aged 40 years and older have had a mammogram in the last two years.
This month, GE is inviting some of the world’s brightest female designers to rethink mammography, and the whole breast cancer journey, during a four-week design installation in New York. The aim of the project–part of GE’s $1 billion cancer initiative announced last month–is to review the entire breast cancer screening and treatment process, from the waiting room to results consultation, with the goal of making it more comfortable.
At a gallery in SoHo, GE and partners–including IDEO, Behance, Steelcase, Mayo Clinic and the Susan G. Komen Foundation–have built a living prototype of a screening center, including a waiting room and mammography machine.
For the first design panel, GE invited 11 “thought leader” panelists from the worlds of design, healthcare and nonprofits for an afternoon of brainstorming and idea-generation.
“We want you to think of this as a blank slate,” Jessica Banks, innovation director at Sub Rosa, said at the start of the first design panel. “We want to generate solutions to make this space as accessible, comfortable and positive for women.”
The first session included panelists from New York University, Rhode Island School of Design, MAYA Design, Smart Design, Moondial and the Mayo Clinic—each participating in an intensely personal exercise that a handful of cancer survivors—whose profiles adorned the walls above the workshop—went through earlier in the week. (“I kept saying ‘Why me? I didn’t do anything wrong,’” a 75-year-old breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 1995, recalled in her wall profile. “I guess maybe I didn’t do everything right.”)
By the end of October, GE plans to fund up to three creative professionals to reinvent the mammography experience based on ideas generated from the Soho design sessions. Stay tuned.