A Fluid Approach to Cancer

A biopsy study looking for cancer usually involves either a sharp scalpel to remove the suspected tissue or a needle injected into the site requiring examination.  What if a simple, inexpensive blood test could do the following:

  • Detect cancer from benign conditions
  • Identify slow vs. fast-growing cancers
  • Help determine newer and more targeted treatments

Welcome to the future: liquid (blood or urine) biopsies will take over the diagnosis of most cancers.

The research

Thanks to the advancement of DNA-focussed research, the liquid biopsy is now a reality. This testing allows for the detection of “circulating tumour cells” in the blood.  There is still work to be done to increase the test’s ability to find a tumour every time it is present and to identify the type of tumour. That being said, there is unprecedented optimism for better cancer screening and diagnosis. This is particularly the case for cancers with poor survival outcomes such as ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreas and esophagus, where no reliable screening tests exist.

How can this influence your health?

The positive news to take away from this is that detecting cancer may no longer be a complicated, painful process which often involved needles or removing suspected tissue for examination. Due to the current invasive nature of cancer biopsies, symptoms tend to trigger the investigation process (sometimes making it too late). This new way of diagnosing the disease is so non-invasive that it could be a common part of your checkup, long before symptoms surface. The research detailed above will allow for early life-saving discoveries of cancer through simple and inexpensive urine or blood tests. This may become the future of detecting cancer early, leading to longer and healthier lives for all.

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