The number of people diagnosed with tumors, especially malignant ones, is constantly increasing. There is also a rise in mortality rate due to delayed diagnosis and inappropriate treatment. Therefore, proper cancer diagnosis is very important.
Early detection of a tumor makes it more probable that the patient will, finally, beat the cancer and recover. However, “oncological vigilance” is required, both for patients and physicians.
What is cancer diagnosis?
The main goal of broadly defined cancer diagnostics is to determine whether a patient has a tumor, where it is located, and what is its histological type and severity. Utilizing the achievements of modern technology, methods, and apparatuses, while under the guidance of a good specialist, we can accurately diagnose and treat cancer from a very early stage.
The most basic diagnostic method is a medical examination, and next to it – a medical interview. Next stages are – depending on the type of a tumor – X-rays, MRI or CAT scan, mammography, histopathology, etc. Broadly defined medical imaging is important at every stage of oncological treatment and is used as often as preventive examinations. Unfortunately, the effectiveness greatly depends on the skills of a specialist who performs the examination and interprets the picture.
An innovative test used to diagnose tumors is a liquid biopsy. This cancer test does not use harmful X-rays and excludes the subjectivity of a specialist who describes an X-ray or tomographic image. In addition, it is less invasive. A simple blood extraction – just 16 ml – is enough to obtain the genetic material necessary for the diagnosis of cancer.
Liquid biopsy – how does it work?
In our bloodstream there are fragments of dying cells derived from chromosomal ctDNA decay. There are about 150 million of them, and among them are also – if present in the body – fragments of tumor cells. By using the Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) mapping, a liquid biopsy is able to detect them. Blood levels of neoplastic DNA are examined in the blood sample collected. This cancer test does not concentrate on a specific part of the body, such as traditional biopsy or medical imaging techniques, but it allows the entire body to be screened for cancer at the earliest stage of the disease. The results are available after 10-14 days.
Not so long ago, a liquid biopsy was mainly used to monitor a diagnosed tumor, e.g. to determine whether the treatment was effective or whether it needed to be changed. Today, it is an excellent tool for diagnosing tumors in potentially healthy people who have not had signs of a tumor yet. It also works well for patients who have already been cured of cancer or are in remission, because it allows them to monitor the eventual return of the disease.