Blood Tests: Important Tools In Early Cancer Detection Diagnosis And Treatment
While there are many different types of cancer, something that virtually all forms have in common are that they can be most successfully treated when diagnosed in their early stages. Of course, diagnostic testing is essential to early detection and treatment. That includes a number of blood tests that can indicate the presence of cancer in the body. Here, we’ll discuss the most commonly used cancer blood tests and how they can help doctors diagnose this pernicious disease.
Test Identifies Changes In Cell Metabolism Highly Accurate
- University of Freiburg
- Medical researchers have developed an approach for detecting breast cancer by means of urine samples. The method involves determining the concentration of molecules that regulate cell metabolism and that are often dysregulated in cancer cells. These molecules, referred to as microRNAs, enter into the urine over the blood. By determining the composition of microRNAs in the urine, the scientists succeeded in establishing with 91 percent accuracy whether a test subject was healthy or diseased.
Researchers at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the Medical Center — University of Freiburg have developed an approach for detecting breast cancer by means of urine samples. The method involves determining the concentration of molecules that regulate cell metabolism and that are often dysregulated in cancer cells. These molecules, referred to as microRNAs, enter into the urine over the blood. By determining the composition of microRNAs in the urine, the scientists succeeded in establishing with 91 percent accuracy whether a test subject was healthy or diseased.
The measurement was possible through the detection of only four microRNAs. If the effectiveness of the method is confirmed in further studies, it could serve in the future as a means of monitoring the success of treatment and potentially also of making an early diagnosis of breast cancer.
Experimental test already highly accurate
Before Your Blood Test
You can eat and drink normally before most blood tests. Your doctor will tell you if you need to stop eating and drinking beforehand and for how long. This is called fasting. Tests that you might need to fast for include:
- glucose tests
- cholesterol tests
For tests that check the levels of particular substances in the blood you might need to stop taking certain tablets, such as iron or thyroxine. Check with your doctor beforehand to see if you need to stop taking tablets.
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How Close Are We To A Blood Test For Breast Cancer
- Researchers are looking at whether we can detect breast cancer via blood test.
- Were still years away from the test being available to the public.
- Early stage cancers shed very small amounts of most biomarkers into blood.
Theres a new blood test that aims to detect breast cancer. Its one of many attempts to create an effective early detection method.
The test could pinpoint breast cancer up to 5 years before a person shows clinical signs of the disease, according to researchers from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.
The test evaluates the bodys immune response to the substances tumor cells produce.
Cancer cells make antigens that cause the body to make antibodies known as autoantibodies. The test looks for the presence of autoantibodies against tumor-associated antigens .
The team was able to make a panel that looked for autoantibodies against 40 antigens that are known to be associated with breast cancer.
Additionally, they looked at 27 antigens or TAAs that werent known to be linked with breast cancer.
The research was presented at the 2019 National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference.
To assess the test, the researchers collected blood samples from 90 people with breast cancer when they received their diagnosis. They then compared those samples with blood samples from 90 people without breast cancer.
Biology Meets Machine Learning
The test works using a type of DNA released by tumor cells. This sheds into the blood, where it is known as cell-free DNA . It can be challenging to identify tumor-specific cfDNA, however, because many other cells also release DNA into the blood.
This test detects DNA that is specifically from cancer cells using changes to the DNA namely, the addition of a chemical called a methyl group, which is associated with tumor growth.
After isolating cfDNA from the blood sample and sequencing it to find the methylated parts, healthcare professionals can feed the results into a computer that can recognize DNA from cancer and noncancer cells.
The computer can then predict whether or not a person has cancer, and even what type it might be.
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Can Cancer Be Detected By A Blood Test
If your physician suspects cancer during physical examination or while taking a medical history, they might order certain cancer blood tests to guide the diagnosis. These blood tests are called tumor markers. Tumor markers could be specifically raised in certain cancers, and may give some idea about the origin of cancer and whether it is responding to the treatment protocol. These tests, however, are neither specific for certain cancers nor highly sensitive.
Other blood tests could be ordered. While these may not detect cancer or benign tumors, they can give a general idea about the functioning of the organ and indicate whether it has been affected by cancer.
Types Of Blood Tests In Cancer Diagnosis
Doctors perform a complete blood count to test blood. A CBC measures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in a blood sample.
CBC results that are above or below normal ranges may signify a health problem. Doctors also look for any biomarkers that could indicate cancer activity.
Finally, doctors examine the various chemicals in the blood, such as:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a few at-home options that individuals can use for cancer screening.
One of these tests is a screening for colon cancer. A healthcare professional provides a test kit to use at home for stool collection. The person then sends the sample to a lab for analysis. The lab contacts the individual if the results are abnormal and they need to visit a doctor for additional testing.
There is no specific test that diagnoses cancer at home with complete certainty. However, people can use self-checks to help spot any changes or abnormalities as early as possible.
Anyone who notices anything unusual during a self-check should speak with a doctor as soon as possible.
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Can I Have Cancer If My Blood Tests Are Mostly Normal
I have had pelvic/lower abdominal pain for about 8 months now. It is a continuous pain, some occasional blood in my stools. My Dad had Colon cancer at aged 50 and died at 56. My sister has polyps removed reguarly. I am 49 and had an early menopause. My blood tests are normal except for a high mean heamoglobin count? I had a sigmoid flex but it was clear. I have no idea what it could be but am worried it is an undetected cancer? Anyone have any thoughts on this? My GP does not seem concerned.
Galleri Will Soon Be Coming To Us Clinics
This month, GRAIL announced that Providence, a leading regional health system based in Renton, Washington, will be the first U.S. health system to offer Galleri as a complement to single cancer screening tests in the second quarter this year.
The Galleri test initially will be used by Providence at its California, Washington, and Oregon points of care. It could eventually be available across Providences entire seven-state footprint.
That includes more than 50 hospitals and nearly 1,100 health clinics serving 5 million patients.
Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, chief clinical officer at Providence, said the company will integrate the Galleri test into clinical care.
When combined with the power of our genomics research, having a single blood test that can detect more than 50 cancers advances our goal of finding cancer early, enabling our providers to administer treatment when its most likely to be successful and giving our patients the opportunity to achieve the best possible outcomes, she said in a press statement.
Hans Bishop, CEO of GRAIL, said in the statement that GRAILs partnership with Providence moves us that much closer to making a tremendous and potentially life-altering difference for patients and providers.
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Stage Of Breast Cancer
When breast cancer is diagnosed, your doctors will give it a stage. The stage describes the size of the cancer and how far it has spread, and is used to predict the outlook.
Ductal carcinoma in situ is sometimes described as stage 0. Other stages of breast cancer describe invasive breast cancer and include:
- stage 1 ;the tumour measures less than 2cm and the lymph nodes in the armpit are not affected. There are no signs that the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body
- stage 2 ;the tumour measures 2 to 5cm,;the lymph nodes in the armpit are affected, or both. There are no signs that the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body
- stage 3 ;the tumour measures;2 to 5cm and may be attached to structures in the breast, such as skin or surrounding tissues, and;the lymph nodes in the armpit are affected. There are no signs that the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body
- stage 4;;the tumour is of any size and the cancer has spread to other parts of the body
This is a simplified guide. Each stage is divided into further categories: A, B and C. If you’re not sure what stage you have, talk to your doctor.
What Is A Blood Test
There are many different types of blood test. Your doctor will decide which tests you need. Blood tests can check:
- the number of different blood cells white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets you have in your blood
- how organs such as your liver and kidneys are working
- for abnormal levels of proteins, called tumour markers
- the levels of other substances in the blood that may be linked with certain types of cancer.
A phlebotomist, nurse or doctor will take a sample of blood, usually from a vein in your arm. This will then be tested in a laboratory.
Blood is made up of blood cells, which float in a liquid called plasma. Each type of blood cell has an important role in the body.
A full blood count test measures the level of these cells:
- Red blood cells
Red blood cells contain haemoglobin , which carries oxygen from your lungs to all the cells in your body.
Platelets are very small cells that help blood to clot, and prevent bleeding and bruising.
- White blood cells
White blood cells fight and prevent infection. There are several types of white blood cell. The two most important types are neutrophils and lymphocytes.
Blood Test For Early Detection Of Cancer: Final Study Results Support Screening Use
Final results from a study of a blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer have shown that it is accurate enough to be rolled out as a multi-cancer screening test among people at higher risk of the disease, including patients aged 50 years or older, without symptoms.
In a paper published in the leading cancer journal Annals of Oncology today, researchers report that the test accurately detected cancer, often before any symptoms arose, while having a very low false positive rate. The test also predicted where in the body the cancer is located with a high degree of accuracy, which could help doctors choose effective diagnostic tests.
GRAIL, Inc. , the company developing and funding the research, has now made the multi-cancer early detection test available in the U.S. by prescription only, and to complement other, existing screening methods such as those for breast, cervical, prostate, lung and bowel cancers. Many of the cancers that the test is capable of detecting do not have screening tests available, such as liver, pancreatic and oesophageal cancers, which are among the most deadly and where early detection could make a real difference.
Sensitivity of the test was 67.6% overall across stages I-III in 12 pre-specified cancers that account for two-thirds of cancer deaths in the U.S. each year , and it was 40.7% overall in more than 50 cancers.
Blood Tests Have Come A Long Way
Historically, blood tests havent been the best way to detect cancer.
Even blood tests on people with blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia were ironically not the most effective way of determining whether a person has cancer.
But blood-testing technologies are now changing the way the disease is diagnosed and treated.
GRAILs technology is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how genetics are revolutionizing cancer care.
In cancer biotech circles, the term blood test is out and the term liquid biopsy is in.
A liquid biopsy simply means an examination of cancer-related material from a blood sample.
Liquid biopsies havent yet replaced a tumor biopsy. But most people interviewed for this story agreed that liquid biopsies are showing great promise in facilitating individualized approaches to cancer treatment.
The Food and Drug Administration recently approved two blood tests that can help guide treatment decisions for people with cancer.
The tests, Guardant360 CDx and FoundationOne Liquid CDx, are made by different companies and were approved separately.
Oncologists have historically based treatment decisions on features like the organ in which the cancer started growing, whether the cancer has spread, and whether the patient has other health conditions.
Now they often use genetic changes in the tumor, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Certain targeted therapies and immunotherapies work best against tumors that have specific genetic changes.
Mammaprint + Blueprint Test
The Mammaprint®;70-Gene Breast Cancer Recurrence Assay may be used to determine the risk that a patients cancer will return. A high-risk score means the cancer has a three-in-10 chance of returning. A low-risk result puts the chances at one in 10. Neither result is a guarantee that the malignancy will or will not come back, but the assessment may be used to guide treatment decisions.
The Blueprint®;80-Gene Molecular Subtyping Assay examines which of the tumors mutations are dictating the cancers behavior. When used with the Mammaprint assay, Blueprint may narrowly define each tumor into a subtype classification, which also may help guide treatment decisions.
What Happens During A Tumor Marker Test
There are different ways to test for tumor markers. Blood tests are the most common type of tumor marker tests. Urine tests or biopsies may also be used to check for tumor markers. A biopsy is a minor procedure that involves removing a small piece of tissue for testing.
If you are getting a blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
If you are getting a urine test, ask your health care provider for instructions on how to provide your sample.
If you are getting a biopsy, a health care provider will take out a small piece of tissue by cutting or scraping the skin. If your provider needs to test tissue from inside your body, he or she may use a special needle to withdraw the sample.
Results From A Routine Blood Test Could Help In Early Detection Of Cancer
Detecting cancer at the earliest opportunity can improve the chances of successful treatment.; New research suggests that a routine blood test could help find cancers early.
Researchers have previously shown that high levels of platelets cells in the blood that help stop bleeding can be a sign of cancer. But now they have found that even slightly raised levels of platelets may be an indication of cancer.
This finding could enable family doctors to send their patients for urgent investigation sooner. The results of this University of Exeter study could help improve cancer detection rates in the UK.
What Types Of Blood Tests Can Help Detect Cancer
Tumor marker tests
Tumor markers are chemicals produced by cancer cells and found in the blood. However, tumor markers are also made by normal cells in the body, and levels may increase significantly in noncancerous conditions. Examples of tumor markers include:
- Alpha-fetoprotein for liver cancer and testicular cancer
- Human chorionic gonadotropin for germ cell tumors, such as testicular cancer and ovarian cancer
- Carcinoembryonic antigen for colon cancers
- Human epididymis protein 4; and inhibin for ovarian cancer
Circulating tumor cell tests
Recently developed blood tests can detect tumor cells that have separated from an original cancer site and are flowing through the bloodstream. The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved one circulating tumor cell test to monitor people with breast, colorectal or prostate cancer. However, these tests are not commonly used in a clinical setting.
Blood protein testing
Electrophoresis is a test that examines various proteins in the blood. This can help identify various immunoglobulins, which are elevated in people with multiple myeloma. A bone marrow biopsy may help confirm the diagnosis of blood cancer.
Complete blood count
A complete blood count helps the doctor to:
- Diagnose some blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma.
- Find out if cancer has invaded the bone marrow.
- Look how a persons body handles cancer treatment.
- Diagnose other noncancerous conditions.
The results of CBC are interpreted as: