English researchers have just developed a device that can detect endometrial cancer in urine or vaginal discharge. It allows for another option in addition to the current screening techniques which are considered too invasive.
What is uterine cancer?
This type of cancer is also called endometrial cancer and is different from cervical cancer because it affects the lining of the uterus. It is the fourth most common cause of cancer in women in the US and particularly affects menopausal women. According to the NIH it is diagnosed on average at age 68. This new tool could make it easier to detect and better treat this cancer: If treated early enough, the chances of survival are high, but 20% of women are already at an advanced stage when the disease is diagnosed. For those women, the five-year survival rate is 15%.
How is endometrial cancer diagnosed currently?
Today, the diagnosis of this cancer is done in two steps: First, a pelvic ultrasound is ordered to detect any thickening of the endometrium, a possible sign of the disease. If this is the case, doctors will perform a biopsy, where a sample of the endometrium is taken for analysis. According to British researchers, this exam is usually performed with a telescope to examine the inside of the uterus. However, in 31% of cases, women have to do it again because of technical problems or too much pain.
A less painful test for women
A new screening method, less invasive than a biopsy but just as reliable: Researchers at the University of Manchester have developed a urine test to detect uterine cancer which they presented in the journal Nature Communications. The diagnosis is made by analyzing the sample urine or vaginal discharge under a microscope.
The study was conducted on a sample of 216 women half of which had endometrial cancer, the other half suffered from unexplained bleeding after menopause. These blood discharges are one of the main symptoms of the disease. The new tool showed significant reliability: Among women who had already been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, the test was positive in 91.7% of cases. For those who were not afflicted, the result was negative in 88.9% of cases. “Women who tested positive with this tool could benefit from further investigation, and those who tested negative could be reassured without the need for an unpleasant, invasive, anxiety-provoking, and expensive procedure,” said Emma Crosbie, head of the study, in a press release. The test provides a result from both urine and vaginal secretions. Samples could be taken at home, which would further facilitate acceptance of the test.