Scientists have made the surprising discovery that a test used to check fetuses for genetic disorders can actually spot cancers in the mother.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that a blood test meant for screening fetuses for genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, may also be able to spot “silent” cancers that are present in the mother.
The study, performed by researchers at Tufts Medical Centers, surprising scientists and could be a promising new lead in the fight to diagnosis cancer as early as possible, according to a Boston Herald report.
The study analyzed eight cases of abnormal test results that were a result of cancer DNA in the mother rather than any fetal defects.
In one case cited by the Herald, a 40-year-old woman was told that chromosomal issues were found in her sample that suggested the baby wouldn’t survive. But later tests indicated the baby was just fine. However, two months later, the woman experienced breathing problems and shoulder pain, and she found out that the reason she had abnormal results was because she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is a blood cancer.
This indicates that false positives may be indicative that more testing needs to be done on the mother rather than the fetus. Dr. Diana Bianchi, who is the lead researcher and the executive director of the Mother Infant Research Institute at Tufts, said that these findings were “very unexpected” and that it is important that women be aware that this test could pertain just as much to them as to their child, according to the report.
The test has been around since 2011 and provides an non-invasive first step, but any positive results should by confirmed through additional tests that involve sampling fluid from the body.