750 Portuguese women will be part of a study to detect breast cancer risk


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More than 700 Portuguese women will participate in a European clinical study that aims to identify a higher risk of developing breast cancer in young people, through a genetic test made from a saliva sample.

The goal of this study is to test “a new tool” to identify women under 50 years of age with risk for breast cancer and to adapt screening and measures to that risk, Luís Costa, director of the Oncology Department at the Centro Hospitalar Lisboa Norte (CHULN), told Lusa news agency today.

CHULN is the institution that will integrate the study, which will take place in Portugal, Sweden, Estonia and Spain.

Luís Costa said that more and more cases of cancer are appearing in young people, pointing out that, according to the latest oncological registry of 2018, of the approximately 7,500 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed, 1,800 were women under 50 years of age, being “off the radar of screening” that is currently aimed at women between 50 and 69 years of age.

The oncologist said that they are trying to extend the screening period to start at age 45 and extend it to age 74, but even if this is done, younger women will not be covered.

The specialist said he expected to receive about 750 volunteers, aged 35 to 50, users of non-oncology services at the hospital center who can also have a mammogram and whose results will accompany those of the polygenic test, as well as a follow-up letter to give to the attending physician for future risk management of the disease, if needed.

“This is not about women who are sick with breast cancer. It’s about women who have no personal history of breast cancer, whether or not they have a family history of breast cancer, they can participate in this project,” clarified Luís Costa.

After the test is performed, it is classified whether the woman has a risk equal to that of the general population or has a higher risk, he said.

According to Luís Costa, what is intended with this work is to demonstrate that it is feasible, with a test that has already been approved in other countries, to identify early these women who are not included even in the new criteria to start screening.

“The word early is the word that counts most for the cure. The earlier we can diagnose, the earlier the stage will be and the greater the probability of cure,” he said, stressing that this tool aims to add “more technical and scientific information”.

In his opinion, screenings will have to be “in the future, as far as possible, more individualized and not determined by age.

“That means that there is information about the citizen. In this case, we are talking about a woman for breast cancer risk, where she knows if she has an increased risk or not, and if she should or should not, maybe in the future, participate in a screening that has an age limit, not 45 years old, but another age limit. This will have to be proven afterwards,” he declared.

Funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, the study is being presented today at the Aula Magna of Lisbon’s Faculty of Medicine.

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