Occasionally, cancer detection methods are lacking when it comes to accurately detecting early stages of cancer. Current methods of cancer detection are hindered by lack of ability to identify all tumor types including distinction between malignant and benign. Patients are currently subjected to fairly invasive and sometimes inaccurate methods of biopsy that can cause extreme amounts of pain and sometimes additional injury. However, progress is being made towards noninvasive cancer detection in the medical field.
Improvements are being made to a form of “fluid biopsy” that tests bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, or urine for the presence of tumor-derived DNA. Early cancer detection by these biomarkers can “enable prompt and successful treatment” (Leygo, 2017). Some forms of cancer are often diagnosed after it has progressed and metastasized which lowers the patient’s chance of survival. Specifically blood-based biomarkers enable medical professionals to detect cancer before they metastasize and “allows for definitive local treatment, resulting in excellent survival rates” (Cree, 2017).
Recently, Johns Hopkins University scientists tested a group of individuals already known to have cancer to test the accuracy of detecting cancerous DNA through fluid biopsy (Marchione, 2018). Not only was the method already fairly accurate, in many cases it could also narrow the origin of the cancer to a specific place in the body. The university sates that they still have to continue improving and testing the fluid biopsy process before it can become a common procedure. 10,000 patients in their study will be tracked at least for the next five years.
For some cancers, detection through this method has not been developed enough to eliminate all traditional forms of detection. It does however, give hope for earlier detection, higher survival rate, and reduction of pain or additional injury from traditional biopsy methods.
Cree, I. A., Uttley, L., Woods, H. B., Kikuchi, H., Reiman, A., Harnan, S., & … UK Early Cancer Detection, C. (2017). The evidence base for circulating tumour DNA blood-based biomarkers for the early detection of cancer: a systematic mapping review. BMC Cancer, 171-17. doi:10.1186/s12885-017-3693-7
Leygo, C., Williams, M., Jin, H. C., Chan, M. Y., Chu, W. K., Grusch, M., & Cheng, Y. Y. (2017). DNA Methylation as a Noninvasive Epigenetic Biomarker for the Detection of Cancer. Disease Markers, 1-13. doi:10.1155/2017/3726595
Marchione, M. (2018, January 20). Progress Made on Blood Test to Detect Deadliest Cancers. Retrieved January 22, 2018, from http://time.com/5111157/blood-test-for-cancer/