According to a new study, scientists have found that it's possible to detect tumor DNA from endometerial cancer using good old-fashioned tampons. Currently there is no effective (or easy) way to screen for the disease. Endometrial cancer is the most common gynecological cancer and currently accounts for six percent of cancers among women.
But Jamie Bakkum-Gamez, a gynecological oncologist at the Mayo Clinic, found that women with endometrial cancer often left cancerous cells on their tampons.
Her team took up the challenge, obtaining samples from 38 women with endometrial cancer and 28 without. They analyzed ordinary tampons used by the women and isolated DNA from the samples.
The tampons used by women with endometrial cancer showed methylation—chemicals that mask genes that suppress tumors in healthy women. Methylation is a kind of molecular marker of cancer, and they found it in 9 of 12 genes they analyzed in the cancerous women. Importantly, the tampon findings were consistent with results obtained from a much more invasive procedure called "endometrial brushing," in which a wire brush is used to scrape cells from inside the uterus.
Bakkum-Gamez's research is currently in a research phase, though they have begun collecting more samples to move into clinical trials.
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