One of the cruelest things about cancer is that even the diagnosis requires an operation—either surgery or the extraction of tissue through a needle, both of which can cause complications.
Or you could just get a blood test. According to a new study published by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, “liquid biopsies”—the detection of cancer through blood instead of tissue—are almost exactly as accurate as surgical ones.
"If we saw a mutation in the plasma, that meant it was in the tumor," Dr. Philip Mack, the lead researcher for the study, told Medline Plus.
The tests work by searching for traces of tumor DNA in a person’s blood. They're less invasive, less expensive, and faster than surgical biopsies, and in some cases can even detect changes in a tumor before they’d appear in scans, the study says.
Researchers used the blood-based biopsies to track cancer in more than 15,000 patients. In the vast majority of cases, the liquid biopsies’ results matched those of the surgical ones—all without lifting a scalpel.