Breast Cancer Screening

January 12, 2010

I’d another mammogram yesterday courtesy of BreastCheck. This Government-funded national screening programme invites women aged 50 to 64 for a free mammogram on an area-by-area basis, every two years. The aim of BreastCheck is to reduce deaths from breast cancer by finding and treating the disease at an early stage. I’d barely sat down in the waiting area yesterday when I was whisked away to be screened. The service was fast, efficient and friendly and could not be faulted. However, I recently read that a revolution in breast cancer screening is on the cards. Results of research in Galway suggest that a simple blood test may soon be sufficient for breast cancer screening.

“Mammography is currently the gold standard diagnostic tool and is the basis for national breast cancer screening programmes. But it is not perfect; it involves exposure to radiation and some 8 to 10 per cent of women who have the test, but who don’t have cancer, will be told initially they do have a tumour.

The ideal test for breast cancer should be easily accessible: it could be sampled in a minimally invasive way; must be sensitive enough to detect the early presence of tumours in almost all patients who have the disease; and should be absent, or at very low levels, in women who are cancer-free.

Ground-breaking research into breast cancer has just emerged from the Department of Surgery at NUI Galway. Not alone does the newly-discovered blood test have the potential to more accurately assess how a woman with breast cancer responds to current treatment, but it may, subject to further research, replace mammography as the main screening method for breast cancer.

Preliminary analysis suggests that the blood test will be 92 per cent accurate in detecting the presence of breast cancer in women who have yet to develop symptoms. If this finding is replicated in larger studies, there is a real possibility of breast cancer screening taking place in your local surgery, using nothing more complicated than a blood test.”

Although medicine has come a long way in recent years in the management of breast cancer, this research offers great hope for the future. Roll-on the revolution!

Information Source: The Irish Times HEALTHplus