There could be a higher chance of reducing the number of people diagnosed with cancer – specifically of breast, ovarian, cervical and endometrial cancers.
A group of London doctors are close to creating the first ever early warning system for these four women cancers. This means that, for the first time, treatment could become preventative, rather than focused on early diagnosis.
The group of doctors at University College London hope to use routine smear tests to predict the risk of these four cancers, so that they can then focus on ensuring they doesn’t take even get a chance to take hold, according to the Evening Standard.
The test would work on healthy women, meaning that they’d be able take steps to prevent the disease even before the cancer develops.
The smear test will study mechanisms that switch genes on and off, to search for potential indicators of cancer. This is because key changes occur in our DNA before they become cancerous, so spotting these really could be vital.
And this would, of course, be a much-needed development. Currently, breast cancer is responsible for around 11,433 deaths of women per year, while 4,300 women die of ovarian cancer annually.
The lead doctor undertaking the research, Professor Widschwendter, said that the treatment could even prove useful for helping to prevent other diseases in the future.
He said, “If we are able to establish this for women-specific cancers, it can be expanded to any kind of chronic disease, such as diabetes. It will change medicine very, very substantially.”
Atena Laminos, chief executive of the Eve Appeal women’s cancer charity, who funds the research, also said, “The success of this programme would mean women could undergo one simple cervical smear test to indentiy the risk of eveloping any of the four cancers.
“We’re compiling a complete picture of the role that hormones, genes and lifestyle play on the development of these cancers.
“Women with cancers such as endometrial or ovarian cancer, where there’s currently no test or no screening available, are desperate to see something developed that will stop women of the future going through the brutal treatment and facing the grim prognoisis that they face today.”
Eventual hopes for the treatment also include being able to identify the BRCA gene mutation. Half of the people who have this genetic mutation don’t even know they have it until the cancer develops, so being able to identify it could allow them to take preventative measures, such as a mastectomy, to help decrease the risk of it turning into cancer.
We’re keeping our fingers tightly crossed…