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Health Beat: Catching cancer with pap smear for the breast

Published On: Sep 23 2013 11:40:06 AM EDT   Updated On: Sep 23 2013 06:33:47 PM EDT

What if you could detect the beginnings of breast cancer years before it showed up on a mammogram?


 What if you could detect the beginnings of breast cancer years before it showed up on a mammogram? That’s what a new screening test is doing. The noninvasive test has the potential to cut breast cancer rates, just like pap smears have cut rates of cervical cancer.

Daily exercise is a must for Susan Burkett. 

"It just gets rid of all the stress in my life," Burkett said.


A top stressor for her is breast cancer. Burkett’s breast density increases her risk and makes it harder for mammograms to spot potentially dangerous growths.

"You can have a mammogram that's negative for nothing suspicious, and by the time you go back for your next one, there could be something there," Burkett said.

Dr. Debra Dube, internal medicine, Internal Medicine Connection, said a new test, known as ForeCYTE, could help Burkett and millions like her.

"It's absolutely huge. To me, this is a new frontier," Dube said.

Much like a pap smear, the test detects pre-cancerous cells up to eight years before cancer arises. 

"Enabling us to treat much earlier, at the very beginning of a tumor formation," Dube said.

Unlike a mammogram, the test is virtually painless. Dube uses a device similar to a breast pump to collect cells that line the milk ducts, and the cells are then sent to a lab for analysis. The results help women like Burkett make an informed decision about her future.

"I think it's more than anything peace of mind," Burkett explained.

Dube said women over 40 should take the test every year and get an annual mammogram. Women between 18 and 39 can also take the ForeCYTE test, and the screening is covered by Medicare and private insurance.

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DOWNLOAD and VIEW the full-length interview with Dr. Debra Dube about early detection of breast cancer