Sheffield scientists develop groundbreaking fingertip test to detect breast cancer

1201 breast cancer
Traditional methods of detection can be uncomfortable. Credit: PA

Scientists have developed a groundbreaking test to use sweat from a woman's fingertip to detect breast cancer.

Tests on smears taken from the fingers of a group of women with benign, early or metastatic breast cancer correctly diagnosed their conditions with 97.8% accuracy.

Prof Simona Francese, of Sheffield Hallam University, who led the research, said: "At a time where the NHS is understaffed and with considerable backlogs, a painless, quick and non-invasive method to screen for breast cancer collecting the sample in the comfort of the home is highly desirable.

"These are exciting findings and, given the potential impact, we must pursue validation for a future rollout. It would be reckless not to fund this follow-up work."

A group of women were recruited to take part in tests at Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

The researchers found that technology normally used to map drugs, pharmaceuticals and biological molecules within tissue could be used for cancer diagnosis.

They say the breakthrough has the potential to increase uptake in breast cancer screenings and reduce NHS waiting lists.

It could mean reducing the reliance on traditional methods of screening and detection, such as mammograms and biopsies, which are effective but can expose women to radiation and can be painful.

Breast cancer affects 2.3 million women across the world every year and causes more than 600,000 deaths. It is the most common cancer in British women. NHS figures revealed that 1.2 million women - 37%of those invited - did not turn up for breast cancer screening in England last year.

Lynda Wyld, professor of surgical oncology at the University of Sheffield, said: "This novel technique is still at an early stage in its development but the results are very promising.

"We plan to undertake some more research to confirm these findings on a large group of women but if the findings are confirmed the technique holds great potential both for the screening and diagnosis of breast cancer but also for monitoring how well treatments such as chemotherapy are working.

"This would potentially save women having regular CT body scans every few months. The fact that the technique only requires a finger tip smears, which are easy to transport and perform, may also make breast screening and diagnosis more accessible."

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