An Australian company called Fermiscan is in the process of developing a test that could possibly identify a person with breast cancer using about 20 strands of their hair.
Fermiscan hair x-ray showing ring present in fibre diffraction pattern
The Fermiscan test has shown a 69% accuracy in detecting breast cancer. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that mammograms or ultrasounds showed no greater than a 50% chance at detecting breast cancer, and a 78% detection rate when the two were combined.
In a clinical study, Fermiscan showed 61% sensitivity and a 69% accuracy in their results for breast cancer. If defective hairs were removed (such as hair treated with dyes or other chemicals) then the accuracy rate of the Fermiscan test showed 75%.
This new technology is still in development stage and women are still encouraged to get their regular tests. Early detection is the primary objective for this technology, and women can include the Fermiscan test as part of their routine tests when it is available.
According to Fermiscan's CEO, David Young, "The Fermiscan Test has the potential to provide a non invasive, fast and accurate addition to existing technologies for the detection of breast cancer in women of all ages. This test is not aimed at replacing mammograms, ultrasound or other diagnostic technologies, but we hope it can be a test that eventually will become part of the arsenal of early detection techniques for the disease," he said.
From Fermiscan's press release, “The Fermiscan Test is based on the discovery that women with breast cancer have a change in the structure of their hair which is detected using a technique called X-ray diffraction. This change is seen as a ring superimposed on the normal X-ray diffraction pattern of hair.”
Since breast cancer claims the lives of more than 500,000 people a year, I think this new technology could be a great breakthrough for many.