At some point in a woman’s life, she may have an abnormal finding on a mammogram. If cancer can’t be ruled out from an ultrasound or MRI, the next step is biopsy.
Even though biopsies come up negative 80-percent of the time, it can still be a nerve-racking, painful experience. But what if there was a test that could diagnose cancer before an abnormality even shows up?
Quinstine Francis is a mother of five—a registered nurse—and a two time breast cancer survivor.
“I wasn’t even fearful for myself but for my children because they need a mother,” Francis said.
Francis had eight cycles of chemo and 33 rounds of radiation. But she says what saved her was early detection.
“Because I went and did my mammogram is how I found it,” Francis explains.
Now doctors are studying new ways that could detect breast cancer before it even shows up on a mammogram.
“This will help us hopefully detect abnormal molecules in the blood that will tell us you know what you’re probably having cancer in the next five to 10 years is 100 percent,” Atif Hussein, MD, Hematologist/Oncologist, Memorial Healthcare System, said.
It’s called mass spectrometry imaging. It’s a technique that allows doctors to visualize the distribution of compounds by their molecular masses, and establish a chemical signature for different tissues.
“We are trying to identify those signatures of normal organs first before we move to try to discover abnormal tissues in our bodies,” Dr. Hussein explains.
Dr. Hussein says this technique could eventually lead to a simple blood test—in a doctor’s office.
“Potentially rapid non-invasive diagnosis of cancer decades before it shows in our body, I would call that a breakthrough,” Dr. Hussein said.
“I can’t imagine what that would do for us,” Francis said.
Dr. Hussein says clinical trials still need to be conducted to judge how effective, specific and sensitive blood testing would be. He says scientists are still a long ways from using the procedure as a normal part of the cancer screening process.