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Blood test for breast cancer recurrence brings peace of mind

breast cancer

April 2, 1996
Web posted at: 9:30 a.m. EST

From Correspondent Eugenia Halsey

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first blood test to detect the recurrence of breast cancer.

The test, developed by Biomira Diagnostics of Canada, is considered extremely accurate -- and will go a long way toward easing some women's anxiety.

Carole O'Toole

Carole O'Toole, 40, was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. After undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and a bone marrow transplant, she seems to be doing fine.

But every day she lives with the fear the cancer will come back.

"At times it's right up front, right in my face, and at other times it's in the background," she says. (167K AIFF sound or 167K WAV sound)

Biomira's test identifies substances produced by the body to fight cancer -- much like a similar test for prostate cancer. It was tested in 166 breast cancer patients in five study sites around the country.

By detecting the cancer sooner, doctors hope it will improve a woman's chance of a successful treatment.

Daniel Chan

"If you can detect the disease earlier, perhaps you have better chance on deciding the therapy and perhaps prolong the life of the patients," says Daniel Chan of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. (256K AIFF sound or 256K WAV sound)

Currently doctors look for a recurrence of breast cancer by doing CAT scans and bone scans, but they are not done very frequently because of the expense and difficulty for the patient.

Doctors say the new blood test should become a part of routine monitoring for women who have been treated for stage two and three breast cancer -- or cancer that had spread beyond the original site.

For O'Toole and women like her, the test -- expected to cost about $50 -- could buy what she calls, "the luxury of time which is so precious to breast cancer survivors." (192K AIFF sound or 192K WAV sound)


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