Researchers have come up with a new detection method that could help catch cervical cancer early. And for a patient, it's as easy as having blood drawn.
Science has made great strides against cervical cancer in the past few decades, but the disease still affects over 11,000 women a year and results in almost 4,000 deaths. Gardasil, the commonly available HPV vaccine, provides some protection but is far from perfect and is disproportionately effective for white people anyway. This early detection system could be life saving.
Scientists at University of Louisville in Kentucky have discovered that a heat profile known as a plasma thermogram can not only detect cervical cancer in a blood sample but can also determine what stage the cancer has reached. Nichola Garbett from the university says that this means "clinicians will be able to better tailor care for each patient." It's clearly a huge step.
The plasma thermogram essentially works by "melting" blood plasma, which then gives off a unique signature based on the proteins in the blood. If a patient has cervical cancer, certain biomarkers will be present in the blood. This method of testing can also work for other diseases as well, including other forms of cancer.
Since the findings are so new, the test is not yet being used to diagnose patients, but eventually it could be used instead of pap smears since it is more convenient and less invasive. The new test could also be used in cervical cancer patients to determine if cancer is responding to a particular treatment, giving doctors vital and potentially life-saving information.
So even though it doesn't look like we'll be curing cancer any time soon, we might soon be getting a whole lot better at treating it, and that is definitely something worth celebrating.