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Scientists have developed a blood test that can identify breast cancer up to five years before patients experience symptoms.

The method has been trialled successfully, and could be ready for use in as little as four years.

The test detects if the body is producing natural defences against the tiny traces of chemicals that cancer cells release into the bloodstream in the early stages of the illness.

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Early diagnosis can massively improve patients’ survival chances.

Scientists at University of Nottingham’s Centre of Excellence for Autoimmunity in Cancer created the test.

They say it is more cost effective and easier to deliver than mammograms.

PhD student Daniyah Alfattani, of the Centre of Excellence for Autoimmunity in Cancer, said: “These results indicate it is possible to detect a signal for early breast cancer.

"Once we have improved the accuracy of the test, then it opens the possibility of using a simple blood test to improve early detection of the disease.”

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The team examined blood samples from 90 women at diagnosis, and 90 healthy people.

They are now testing samples from 800 patients, which is expected to improve results.

They are also working on similar tests for pancreatic, bowel and liver cancers.

The findings were presented to a National Cancer Research Institute meeting in Glasgow.

Dr Iain Frame, the institute’s CEO, said: “Non-invasive ways of detecting the first signs of cancer is something we would all like to see working
in practice.”

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