This Blood Test Can Detect Cancer Years Before Symptoms Appear

Researchers say it's like a "smoke detector."

With just a quick finger prick, doctors may soon be able to detect cancer as early as a decade before any symptoms appear. As reported by The Independent, scientists announced the finger prick test's development at the British Science Festival in Swansea, Wales. They described it as a "smoke detector," because, like the lifesaving device, the test would not actually identify the cancer itself, but rather signs of cancer: changes shown to occur in red blood cells in the disease's earliest stages.

"It looks for the scent of cancer," lead researcher Gareth Jenkins said at the festival. "It doesn't detect fire it detects smoke. We are not looking for the cancer, we are looking at its by-product."

Early detection, of course, allows medical professionals to quickly treat and surgically remove any cancerous tissue and, as noted by the Irish Times, seriously improves patients' outlooks and survival rates.

As the study focused on detecting esophageal cancer, Jenkins noted that more work still needs to be done to confirm the test's reliability and usefulness for detecting other types of cancer,  but he's hopeful.

"I would think it would have a massive effect."