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Utah researchers launch study examining a blood test that could detect breast cancer earlier

MURRAY, Utah – As we celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, researchers at Intermountain Medical Center have launched a study that could help detect the disease earlier.

Since 1991 breast cancer death rates have declined 38 percent, due to early detection and mammography. Doctors say that despite the improvement, some cases of breast cancer are missed.

“We have 3-D mammography now, we have Ultra Sound and we have MRI, but they all have their limitations,” said Dr. Brett Parkinson, the Imaging and Medical Director of the Intermountain Medical Center Breast Care Center.

With help from Executive Director of Intermountain Healthcare Precision Genomics program Dr. Lincoln Nadauld, Parkinson is taking a different approach to diagnosing breast cancer.

Nadaulad and Parkinson announced the launch of a three-year study to develop a blood test that looks for DNA from a cancer tumor. This landmark study could help immensely when scanning for breast cancer.

“So a patient for example could have a blood based test in addition to a mammogram, and that would help us detect more cancers earlier while they're curable,” Nadauld said.

Patients undergoing 3-D mammography could volunteer for a blood draw, and those blood samples could be analyzed at the Genomics lab in St. George.

Breast cancer survivor Linda Warner said the study has given people hope.

“I think any way of catching cancer earlier and being more accurate is a wonderful thing,” Warner said.

In 2016, Warner’s cancer was detected on a mammogram. Luckily it was in its early stages.

“Just got my last follow-up mammogram, and I am cancer free and healthy,” Warner said.

Researchers don’t know if their findings will yield effective results. Until then, they encourage Utahns to get screened. When it comes to breast cancer screening rates Utah is the 2nd worst in the nation.

“Every patient over the age of 40 should have an annual screening mammogram regardless of your family history, and regardless of how well you may be feeling,” said Dr. Nadauld.

If you would like to participate in the study, follow the link below for more information:

https://intermountainhealthcare.org/research/areas-of-research/crest-study/