An EU-funded project is developing a single genetic test that would indicate an individual woman's risk of developing breast, cervical, womb or ovarian cancer - potentially saving lives.
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The proposed test, being developed by the FORECEE project, would enable women at high risk to take preventative actions earlier, or to halt progression of incipient cancer before it becomes invasive. The test would also spare women with a low risk of developing these cancers from unnecessary screening tests.
Breast, cervical, womb, and ovarian cancers account for 47% of all cancers in women, with some 516 000 new cases diagnosed in the EU every year.
FORECEE’s test would screen for molecular changes in cervical cells that indicate a woman’s individual risk of developing these cancers. Project researchers say women would not need to go for extra appointments to take advantage of the test: cervical cells are currently collected during screening for cervical cancer.
As part of their work, the researchers are also examining the legal, social, ethical and behavioural issues related to the implementation of the risk prediction test. They are also developing ways of communicating the complex medical information extracted from the tests.
“It’s important to provide the women concerned with clear and easily understandable information that spells out the pros and cons of taking the test or not,” says Odette Wegwarth, project leader and senior research scientist at the Harding Center for Risk Literacy. “Only then can they really evaluate its potential benefits and harms and make an informed decision.”