The war with cancer rages on, but there may be a small glimmer of hope as scientists continue to use technology to get a leg up on the continuing battle. The latest development comes from the University of California, San Diego where an experimental blood test that may catch five common cancers years sooner than current methods is being developed.
Researchers are hopeful as early results have showed promise with the test’s sensitivity, which refers to a test’s ability to accurately pick up all people with a disease. In a recent study, the blood test had a sensitivity rate of about 95% in people free of cancer symptoms. The analysis showed that the blood test detected cancer in 95% of the study individuals up to four years before their actual diagnosis by routine medical care for five types of cancer – colon, esophageal, liver, lung and stomach.
The test works by identifying small particles of cancer cell DNA. Tumor cells regularly shed bits of their DNA into a person’s bloodstream, but the DNA is present in only small amounts, especially when tumors are small. That can make it hard to detect, so the researchers developed the blood test to look not for DNA, but for chemical changes to DNA called methylation. Methylation normally controls which genes are turned “on” or “off”. Abnormal methylation patterns can signal the presence of cancer.
The researchers used blood samples from 605 people who were part of a long-term health study. At the outset, all were healthy and free of cancer symptoms, but over the next four years, 191 were diagnosed with colorectal, esophageal, liver, lung or stomach cancer. Before the diagnoses, however, there were already signatures in their blood that showed they had cancer. The test caught all cases of liver cancer and 91% of esophageal cancers. The overall rate of false positives, which you would ideally want to be as close to zero as possible, was around 5%. Not perfect, but very encouraging for preliminary results.
Even though it doesn’t automatically guarantee success or better survival odds, early detection is still key to having the best chance of a successful outcome in dealing with cancer. This blood test could act as an early screening tool to help better direct efforts towards an optimal outcome, so it is pretty exciting news. The best plan, however, is still to not get cancer in the first place.
Your best strategy for that goal is to take care of your body as well as you can in as many ways as possible. Stress drives the body to react badly or incorrectly, and it can impair your body’s natural defense systems. Poor diets, improper body mechanics, not handling mental and emotional stresses – all can take a toll on the body and keep it from functioning optimally. How do you know if things aren’t going right? Well, symptoms would be your first clue. Poor energy, digestive issues, sleep disturbances, hormonal imbalances – all could be indicators. The confirmation? A good, thorough blood workup will help identify potential problem areas and give you an early opportunity to correct imbalances and deficiencies if they exist, or ideally before they become problematic. Being proactive is the smartest approach and an easy screening like labs will give you good information to formulate an optimal wellness plan.