Health Beat: Diagnosing breast cancer earlier: Medicine's next big thing?

Health Beat: Diagnosing breast cancer earlier

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - Quinstine Francis is a mother of five, a registered nurse, and a two-time breast cancer survivor.

"I wasn't even fearful for myself but for my children because they need a mother," Francis said.

Francis had eight cycles of chemotherapy and 33 rounds of radiation, but she said what saved her was early detection.

"Because I went and did my mammogram is how I found it," Francis explained.

Now, doctors are studying new ways that could detect breast cancer before it even shows up on a mammogram.

"This will help us hopefully detect abnormal molecules in the blood that will tell us, 'You know what? You're probably having cancer in the next five to 10 years,' is 100 percent," said Dr. Atif Hussein, hematologist/oncologist, Memorial Healthcare System.

It's called mass spectrometry imaging, a technique that allows doctors to visualize the distribution of compounds by their molecular masses, and establish a chemical signature for different tissues.

"We are trying to identify those signatures of normal organs first before we move to try to discover abnormal tissues in our bodies," Hussein explained.

Hussein said the technique could eventually lead to a simple blood test in a doctor's office. 

"Potentially rapid, non-invasive diagnosis of cancer decades before it shows in our body. I would call that a breakthrough," Hussein said.

"I can't imagine what that would do for us," Francis said.

Hussein said clinical trials still need to be conducted to judge how effective, specific and sensitive blood testing would be. He said scientists are still a long ways from using the procedure as a normal part of the cancer screening process.

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