A blood test has been developed by scientists, that could help to diagnose cancer in patients with non-specific symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss or fatigue. It is hoped that if the test is validated, it could help patients to receive treatment earlier, before their symptoms and cancer progress.
At present, if a patient has non-specific symptoms, there is no specific route for which they can be referred for investigations. The NHS is setting up rapid diagnostic centres with an aim to enable faster and earlier cancer diagnoses; however, in most cases, patients without specific symptoms will be examined by a GP and if there is no obvious cause, they will be advised to return if symptoms have worsened.
Early detection of cancer is vital to ensure that patients receive the appropriate treatment to facilitate recovery. If there has been a delay, this may have allowed the cancer to spread to other areas of the body, or increase in size, which may mean that treatment options are reduced, or may be more invasive or lengthy.
In some case, delays in diagnosis can be the difference between whether a patient can be cured or not.
The University of Oxford conducted a study into the blood test, which correctly detected cancer in 19 out of every 20 patients with cancer. The test is unable to pinpoint the specific type of tumour, but knowing that there is a tumour, enables doctors to send the patients for imaging investigation to try and find the site of the tumour.
The scientists also highlighted that the test has a 94% accuracy rate for distinguishing whether the cancer has already spread to other areas of the body. The importance of this is that it may help determine the correct type of treatment for each patient, as some immunotherapies are known to increase survival for patients with metastatic tumours, but as the treatment is expensive and has side-effects, they aren’t provided to every patient. This test may enable doctors to select which patients would be most suitable to these treatments.
The next step in validating this blood test, is to trial the test in 2,000 to 3,000 patients with non-specific symptoms over the next 2 years. This data will then be submitted to National Regulatory Agencies, who will make the decision as to whether the test will be authorised for use.
We believe that this test is a positive step towards increasing the amount of patients that receive early cancer diagnosis and are able to be successfully treated, and reduces the amount of people that suffer from delays in diagnosis.
We can help
We have a specialist team of solicitors that are experienced in bringing claims for delayed diagnosis of cancer. We recognise that delays in diagnosis create significant emotional stress for patients and their families, as well as often taking a physical toll on the patient.
If you think that this has happened to you, please get in touch to see if we can help you.
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