Could A Pill Help To Detect Breast Cancer?

The new pill that's taking the squeeze out of mammography.

What you need to know
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in Australia
  • 18,087 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018
  • Approximately 50 Australians will be diagnosed each day
  • Mammography misses about one in five breast cancers
  • About half of women screened will have a false positive result

Researchers around the globe are working hard to find better ways to prevent, detect, and treat breast cancer. The most recent advances include blood tests that can potentially pinpoint cancer DNA and a revolutionary pill that causes tumours to glow under infrared light.

Mammography has long been considered the cornerstone for breast cancer detection but experts say it's far from perfect with one in five cancers being misdiagnosed.

What's more, 50 percent of all those screened annually for 10 years will experience a false positive result, in other words, a wrongly diagnosed test result -- resulting in unnecessary stress and the need for further testing.

Mammograms are also unable to detect slow-growing tumours, which is important when deciding on the most appropriate treatment option. And this is where a new pill comes in.

Not only do the researchers suggest that the pill may be able to detect tumours, but it could also potentially distinguish how aggressive they are -- thus improving treatment decisions.

When swallowed, the pill, which contains a special type of dye, causes tumours to glow under infrared light. This can reveal the presence of breast cancer and give information about the types of cells involved.

Taking the dye in a pill form is potentially much safer than having it injected, and researchers hope this new way of detecting cancer will not only complement mammography, but perhaps one day replace it.

Breast Cancer Network Australia Director of Policy and Advocacy Danielle Spence told ten daily the new research could make diagnosing and treating breast cancer more effective -- which was a positive move.

Advances in treatment and care, as well as improvements in the detection of breast cancer, mean that Australia has one of the best breast cancer survival rates in the world, added Spence.

The pill will hopefully take the squeeze out of breast cancer detection. Image: Getty.

"Recent advances in cancer treatment indicate that more personalised approaches to treatment are likely to be where the future of cancer treatment is headed,” she said.

While the pill is being investigated researchers say a commercial product is still about five years away.  Trials have only been carried out on animals. The next step would be to toxicity studies and from there a move into human trials.

Feature image: Getty.