Researchers developing blood test to detect breast cancer
"HALLELUJAH." That was breast cancer survivor Jenny Dowell's response to the news about a new non-invasive test developed by researchers that could detect breast cancer much earlier than mammograms or breast exams.
"Any woman would welcome that and say hallelujah if it means avoiding regular mammograms until absolutely necessary ... it would be just fantastic," the Lismore Mayor said.
National Breast Cancer Foundation researcher at the Queensland University of Technology, Professor Rik Thompson, said the blood test, or liquid biopsy, which is currently being trialled, could detect cancer before a patient displays any symptoms.
"We have reasons to believe (liquid biopsies) could be quicker than waiting for symptoms to appear, or something that shows up on a bone scan or a CT scan," he said.
"This would show up sooner, allowing us to treat earlier or to change treatment if its clear the tumour isn't responding to the current treatment."
The liquid biopsy tests blood for circulating tumour cells, or tiny bits of the tumour DNA, which have been released into a person's blood as their cells denigrate.
Currently, breast exams and mammograms are the most common ways to detect breast cancer.
Like with any form of cancer, the early detection of breast cancer results in survival rates of about 90% of cases.
Prof Thompson said he hoped the test would be available to the public in two to five years.
"There's a lot of optimism and a lot of interest," he said.
"I would love to say we'll see it in two years - and it's likely we will.
"But I don't think it will be used widely for another five years."
Cr Dowell said she was diagnosed with breast cancer four days after being elected mayor in 2008.
Following a mastectomy and treatment, she was given the all clear to stop taking medication in 2014.
"I have been discharged from my oncologist for about 18 months but I still see my surgeon; he wants to follow me for another 10 years," she said.
For many women, Mrs Dowell said, mammograms were extremely painful.
"Mammograms are one of the most painful experiences we go through," she said.
"They still bring tears to my eyes.
"They are regarded as a necessary evil and are a bit of pain you go through every year.
"If a blood test can show up cancerous cells and if you find out earlier that is the most important thing.
"We know early detection is the key to beating cancer, so what ever can help with that early detection would be welcomed."