A blood test is an important tool that your doctor uses to help keep track of how certain things are doing in your body. For example, a blood test can help diagnose a thyroid problem, determine if you have anemia, and help your doctor figure out if your medications are effectively treating you. But what if a blood test could also diagnose brain tumors?
There are already quite a few ways to diagnose a brain tumor. A neurological exam may give the doctor enough proof of difficulty in a couple of areas (such as hearing and balance) that could signify your brain being affected by a tumor. An MRI may be used to determine how far along the tumor is and to help your doctor decide on the appropriate course of treatment. If it is suspected that the brain tumor is the result of cancer metastasizing, you may be tested for cancer in other parts of your body by using other types of imaging, such as a CT or PET scan. A biopsy may be done to determine if the cancer is indeed cancerous or benign and is accomplished by removing a piece of the tissue and then viewing the sample under a microscope.
Most of these diagnostic tools come with the detriment of being fairly time consuming, invasive, and hinge on the patient experiencing symptoms that make them come to the doctor with suspicions of a brain tumor in the first place. Unfortunately, many patients don’t have any symptoms at all, and sometimes the tumor itself is discovered completely by chance when the patient goes in for imaging for a completely different reason.
On the other hand, most patients are familiar with a blood test, and even if they have a fear of needles, it’s usually less anxiety provoking and less invasive than the more traditional methods of diagnosing a brain tumor. So how exactly does this work in diagnosing a brain tumor?
In research presented to the NCRI Cancer Conference in 2019, it was determined that a chemical analysis of a given blood sample could help speed up the detection of a tumor. Incredibly, the researchers say that their test works by detecting whatever chemicals the tumor can “shed” into your blood. With a test population of 400 patients who suspected that they may have a tumor, 40 of them were found to actually have one with this test.
Some of the techniques used are based on technology that is already common. Infrared spectroscopy, along with an AI program, examines the chemical makeup of a person’s blood. From there it is then able to match that to clues that indicate a tumor may be present.
The researchers were able to correctly identify those that had a brain tumor 82% of the time, as well as correctly identifying those that did not have a brain tumor 84% of the time. This low rate of false positives is very important due to the heavy burden, both mental and physical, of this disease.
Cancer research marches continuously onward and upward, with researchers working feverishly to come up with new ways of identifying the different types of cancer and improving the lives and outcomes of the patients diagnosed with it. This simple blood test could be a huge gamechanger.