A new method of detecting bowel cancer is currently being trialled by scientists in the UK. This new procedure could diagnose patients with the use of a simple blood sample as opposed to invasive procures such as colonoscopy – the insertion and examination of the bowel using a flexible tube – a method which proves risks of heavy bleeding or perforation of the bowel.
Experts are saying that this new technique is nothing other than a finger-prick drop of blood on a piece of paper and could revolutionise bowel cancer screening and diagnosis, picking the disease up much sooner and increasing the chances of survival while sparing patients of the invasive colonoscopy procedure.
The new test looks for certain molecules in the blood, known as biomarkers – released by cancer cells, as well as looking for chemicals that are produced by tumours. These chemicals change the way the body absorbs nutrients from food inside the gut and as a result can affect the body’s use of proteins and carbohydrates, and this can be detected in the blood sample.
Giving results within 24 hours, the test measures 30 to 40 markers that are most likely to signify bowel cancer. Earlier studies show its accuracy is comparable to the common stool test, detecting 87% of colorectal cancers, used to identify bowel cancer when a patient is experiencing issues with their bowel movements. The blood test also detects 83% of polyps, small growths on the inner lining of the colon, which can grow into cancer and need removing, whereas a stool test is known to only detect 42% of these growths.
The trial of this new method of detecting bowel cancer in its early stages, will collect 660 blood samples from GP referred patients after receiving a positive screening test result. Following the trial, the new blood test could be used in widespread screening programmes, allowing doctors to identify the signs of cancer, or the potential components that can cause cancer.
Around 41,000 British people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year, making it the UK’s second biggest cancer killed.
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