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Becton Dickinson wants women to use sense and Sensability.

The medical products company known for its Ace bandages and thermometers moves into the women's health market as it rolls out the Sensability Breast Self-Examination Aid this summer.

The over-the-counter product is touted as the first government-approved device to assist women in conducting a breast cancer self-examination. The hope is it will give women more confidence in the self-exam and make them more willing to perform one monthly.

"If they feel good about how they're doing it and the product is sitting there in the medicine case, then compliance should increase," said Cheryl Biron, senior product manager at Becton Dickinson.


The product is expected to be widely available in August; the suggested retail price is $29.99, with a $5 rebate coupon.

An estimated $5 million to $10 million national cable and network TV campaign from Grey Advertising, New York, is set to launch in October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

A consumer print campaign is being considered; ads aimed at physicians will start in September trade publications, from Grey Healthcare Group, New York.

Grey has completed creative on two 15-second spots, which are undergoing consumer testing. One spot will be used in the initial TV effort.

Bob Burruss, Grey exec VP, said the ad challenge Sensability presents is how to deal with a subject that gives rise to squeamishness and fear. "We have to overcome denial and get women to face up to the fact that breast cancer is a real issue."


Becton Dickinson is positioning Sensability as a significant advance over soap and water for performing a personal breast exam. The product consists of lubricated plastic sheets that a woman holds over her breast to more easily feel for lumps. Sensability is touted as one aspect of a complete breast health program, along with a breast exam by a doctor and a mammogram.

Sensability as a product has somewhat of a tortured history. It took tiny Inventive Products, which still manufactures the device, 12 years to receive U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval to sell it OTC in late 1997. During that span, the product -- then known as Sensor Pad -- became a cause celebre for both women's health groups and congressional leaders, which felt the FDA was unnecessarily delaying the availability of an mportant product.

Lacking the finances to launch a major marketing push, Inventive Products sought a partner and reached an exclusive licensing agreement with Becton Dickinson last year.

"I wouldn't have stayed on it 12 years if I didn't believe in the product," said Grant Wright, president of Inventive Products. "We've had tremendous reception from both physicians and the consumer."

The Sensability pad will be sold along with an instructional video in English and Spanish and a storage case, which also is the product package. The product

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