If the latest findings of a study are to be believed, breast milk may hold a greater potential of detecting breast cancer in women than more invasive procedures such as ductal lavage and nipple aspiration.
Ductal lavage is a method by which samples of breast duct cells are gathered and examined under a microscope to identify whether these cells are normal or cancerous. Nipple aspiration, on the other hand, is a process wherein fluid is collected from the nipple by gentle suction, using a mechanism similar to breast pumps.
These invasive procedures normally gather hundreds to thousands of cells, but with breast milk, up to millions, reportedly, can be collected for testing.
The research group which conducted the study at the University of Massachusetts Amherst got samples from 250 breastfeeding women scheduled for a breast biopsy for suspected tumor growths. They examined the milk samples (from the colostrums of the mothers) for the presence of epithelial cells (found in the breast and potentially cancerous). Once epithelial cells were discovered, the researchers further analyzed the cancer genes in their DNA, looking for signals that stimulate the development of cancer.
Kathleen Acaro, one of the researchers, claims that 80 percent of women give birth and that it is during this period, along with lactation, that cancer is most especially difficult to detect. With this, breast milk may provide the key to determining during this stage whether a mom is prone to developing breast cancer.
Despite the need for more accurate studies to prove the effectiveness of the breast milk screening, the researchers hope that this test will help pregnant mothers to discover their risk for breast cancer early on, in a non-invasive, inexpensive and precise manner.
SOURCES: • April 5, 2011. Atula. “Breast Milk Test May Help Detect Breast Cancer in Women” GrowingYourBaby.com • Jacqueline Tourville. “Breast Milk May Predict Breast Cancer Risk” Breastfeed.com • April 5, 2011. Sophie Borland. “Breast milk test that examines cells to predict cancer” DailyMail.co.uk • April 4, 2011. Salynn Boyles. “Breast Milk May Hold Clues to Breast Cancer Risk” MedicineNet.com