Blood Test for Early Breast Cancer Detection

You may have seen a headline about a blood test that can detect breast cancer 5 years before you can feel a lump. This is exciting, but as with any grabby headline, it is important to manage expectations and know the facts.

The test, being developed in Britain, is still in the early stages, and right now, is only partially effective. It looks for autoantibodies which are made by the immune system, to fight off early cancer cells. However, it lacks specificity and right now, misses about 2/3 of cancer. The idea holds promise and research is aggressively underway.

This should not be confused with BRCA testing which uncovers DNA mutations that predispose someone for the development of breast, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancer. Nor, should it be confused with CA125 testing which is a tumor marker used in the diagnosis and management of ovarian cancer.

I am hopeful these kinds of blood tests for all types of cancer will be developed, but for now, current screening tests are still our best option to detect tumors early when treatment can still be effective. Stay tuned, but don’t cancel your mammography appointment any time soon.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness & Parenting Coach. She works with parents who want to feel more confident when helping their children and coaches young adults to help them better navigate college life and transitions. Contact her at drkarenlatimer@gmail.com to learn more. She is the author of two Audible Originals, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents and Worry Less, Parent Better. She is also the co-founder of the app that makes your life easier and puts social in a healthier place -- List'm.

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