OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma breast cancer researchers are sending Oklahoma blood samples to Italy for research in hopes that Italian experts can find a blood test that will detect cancer.
Mercy Women’s Center researcher Dr. Alan Hollingsworth has been collecting blood samples from Oklahoma women for more than 10 years.
The most unique thing about his collection of samples is that each patient who donated their blood for research also had a breast MRI.
Hollingsworth says, “All of our blood bank is tied to MRI results. It may be the only one in the world. People come from all over the world wanting our samples.”
Mercy Health Center has teamed up with researchers in Italy to create a blood test that will identify women who are at risk for the kinds of breast cancer typically missed on mammogram.
Experts agree the very best way to catch breast cancer early is MRI.
However, very few women will have a breast MRI because they are expensive and insurance won’t cover it unless you’re high risk.
Often a cancerous lump can be detected on MRI after it was missed on mammogram and ultrasound.
Dr. Rebecca Stough says, “Breast MRI comes as close to 100 percent as any study we have. It’s about 97 percent with high quality equipment and experienced interpreters.”
Italian researchers are closer than ever to finding a blood test that will tell them when doctors need to take a closer look using breast MRI.
While these new technologies are being developed, mammography remains today’s best screening option.
Doctors recommend every woman have a mammogram starting at age 40.
Oklahoma is one of the more generous in the nation, requiring insurance coverage for baseline mammograms between the ages of 35 and 39 and annual mammograms for women 40 and older.