New test could diagnose breast cancer years before mammogram

It's news a lot of women have been given: your mammogram found something abnormal. If cancer can't be ruled out from an ultrasound or MRI, the next step is biopsy.

Biopsies come up negative 80 percent of the time, but it can still be a nerve-racking, painful experience. What if there was a test that could diagnose cancer before an abnormality shows up, saving you all that stress?

It may be medicine's next big thing.

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," Quinstine said.

Quinstine had eight cycles of chemo and 33 rounds of radiation, but she says what saved her was early detection.

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

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," explained Memorial Healthcare System hematologist/oncologist Atif Hussein.

It's called “mass spectrometry imaging.” It's 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 said.

Doctor Hussein said this 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."

"I can't imagine what that would do for us," Quinstine adds.

Hussein said clinical trials still need to be conducted to judge how effective, specific and sensitive blood testing would be.

He says scientists are still a long way away from using the procedure as a normal part of the cancer screening process.


TOPIC: Diagnosing Breast Cancer Earlier: Medicine's Next Big Thing?
REPORT: MB #3791

BACKGROUND: According to Breast Cancer researchers in 2013 there were about 232 thousand new cases of invasive breast cancer. About one-in-eight women in the United States are predicted to develop breast cancer. But in 2000 the incidence rates in the United States started decreasing. The most common type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma. This begins in the lining of the milk ducts or the thin tubes that carry milk from the lobules of the breast to the nipple. Invasive breast cancer can occur in men and women. But male breast cancer is rare. (Source:\;

SIGNS/SYMPTOMS: The causes of breast cancer could be inherited. The risk doubles for those who have a first degree relative who has been diagnosed. It is much higher for women who have inherited mutations in the genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2. The symptoms vary widely from a lump to swelling to skin changes. Many breast cancers have no symptoms at all. Risk factors include family history, reproductive history, lifestyle and environment. Treatments can include surgery, radiation, anti-estrogen therapy and chemotherapy. (Source:

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Mass spectometry imaging could detect breast cancer before it shows up on a mammogram. Dr. Art Hussein says it's a rapid non-invasive diagnosis of cancer decades before it shows in the body. It's a blood test that helps the doctors visualize the spatial distribution of compounds by their molecular mass and then establish a chemical signature for different tissues. The technology can be used on the skin. It's non-invasive and there are no biopsies needed. If there is an abnormality in the breast the spectroscopy is used to try to see if the abnormality is part of the normal tissue, normal breast or if it is abnormal. If it is abnormal then the doctors would go in and check it. This way doctors can avoid doing biopsies on people with normal tissue and only focus on those with abnormal signatures. Hussein says this blood test could detect abnormal molecules in the blood that would alert patients that the probability of cancer in the next 5 to 10 years is 100 percent.


Atif Hussein, MD
Memorial Healthcare System
Memorial Cancer Institute
Office: 954-265-4325

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas

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