Let’s be real: No one really looks forward to getting their annual or bi-annual mammogram. They’re invasive and uncomfortable at best and downright painful at worst. But they are also essential in detecting and treating signs of breast cancer as early as possible. However, according to new research, a routine blood test might soon be able to detect those signs even sooner — without ever having to squish your chest like a pancake.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham were able to identify tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) that are good indicators of cancer. They used those to develop a series of panels with increasing amounts of TAAs to test against blood samples from 90 patients already diagnosed with breast cancer versus 90 others who are cancer-free. With each test, they increased the amount of TAAs and were better able to accurately identify which sample came from patients with breast cancer and which came from those without.
As Daniyah Alfattani, a PhD student on the research team, explains in a press release, “The results of our study showed that breast cancer does induce autoantibodies against panels of specific tumor-related antigens (TAAs). We were able to detect cancer with reasonable accuracy by identifying these autoantibodies in the blood.”
OK, if your head is spinning with all of those scientific terms, don’t worry. It basically means they were able to introduce an element into a regular blood sample that reacts in a way that will indicate if there is a likelihood of breast cancer.
This could mean finding signs of breast cancer up to five years before symptoms normally uncovered in a self-exam or mammogram ever even appear. More research is needed, but Alfattani says, “Once we have improved the accuracy of the test, then it opens the possibility of using a simple blood test to improve early detection of the disease.” As we all know, the earlier breast cancer is found the better the chance of treating and beating it.
The research team has already expanded their testing samples to 800 patients and will continue to fine-tune the accuracy of their results. They are hopeful a fully accurate test will be available within the next four or five years.
This breakthrough along with the recent development of a highly sensitive blood test being able to put an end to unnecessarily invasive breast cancer surgery, there is a lot of hope on the horizon for women’s health.
You should continue your regularly scheduled mammograms in the meantime, but it will at least be nice to keep these promising new developments in your mind while you’re awkwardly standing at the machine and waiting for it to be over.