Researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark have developed a new blood test that can predict breast cancer, even 5 years before it develops. The research also aims at eradicating the problem of misdiagnosis and false positives caused by mammography for years.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women. Mammography, the common screening method to diagnose breast cancer offers 75 per cent sensitivity and only detects the presence of cancer. Moreover, the “false positives” picked up by the breast scans leads women to undergo unnecessary treatment.
The new blood test could prove far more useful as it has the potential to predict the risk of the cancer accurately. This ability, the scientists hope, will enable better prevention and early treatment of the disease.
The new technique involves measuring all the compounds in the blood to build a “metabolic profile” of an individual, which could help detect changes in the way chemicals are processed during a pre-cancerous stage. Over 57,000 patients were tracked over a period of 20 years on the basis of their blood samples. Two groups of women were compared, all of whom were healthy when the study began. Half of them were diagnosed for breast cancer within seven years of providing their first blood sample. These samples were compared with the ones who stayed healthy.
By examining the metabolic profiles they built from the blood samples, the researchers were able to predict the cancer two to five years in advance with 80% accuracy. Though the test may not be 100 percent accurate, it is believed to be a much better option than mammograms. More trials are needed to refine the technique.
According to the leading author of the study, “The method is better than mammography, which can only be used when the disease has already occurred.”
US breast cancer statistics reveal that an estimated 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. in 2015, along with 60,290 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer. By detecting the potential to develop breast cancer much earlier, the new test could make the disease much easier to treat, say experts.