What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

The video for this story is not available, but you can still read the transcript below.
No image

Researchers Seek Ways to Find Early Signs of Cancer

Biomarkers, changes in a protein that indicate the progression of a disease, hold promise for different fields of medicine. NewsHour health correspondent Susan Dentzer reports on the use of biomarkers in the early detection of cancer.

Read the Full Transcript

  • DOCTOR:

    A couple of short breaths, I'll line you up, and then I'll be back for the injection.

  • SUSAN DENTZER:

    Every few months, an anxious Kathy Lilliman undergoes a CT scan to see if her ovarian cancer has recurred. Lilliman, who's 52, was diagnosed with the deadly disease almost three years ago. She had never had a blood test for so-called CA-125, a protein that, at high levels, can signal the presence of ovarian cancer.

    Her only symptoms had been occasional gastrointestinal troubles, easily attributable to something more benign than cancer.

  • KATHY LILLIMAN, Cancer Patient:

    They were just stomach problems, and I was almost going through menopause right then, too. And I would have it one week, I would feel awful. And then the next week, I would be OK.

  • SUSAN DENTZER:

    Her doctor first misdiagnosed Lilliman, shown here with her daughter, as having a condition called irritable bowel syndrome. By the time cancer was diagnosed more than a year later, Lilliman had an orange-sized tumor on one ovary, and the disease had already spread to other organs.

    Now, after two long bouts of chemotherapy, Lilliman knows the odds are against her. Only about one in three women with advanced ovarian cancer survive beyond five years. Lilliman wishes the cancer had been detected sooner when it could have been removed by surgery alone.

  • KATHY LILLIMAN:

    I wouldn't have to have gone through the chemo. I wouldn't be worried now about recurring every few years. If they had caught it early, I would have been done with it and be back to my normal life.

  • SUSAN DENTZER:

    Detecting cancer earlier in patients like Lilliman is critical, says Lee Hartwell. He's a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who heads the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

  • LEE HARTWELL, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center:

    Perhaps the most important statistic we know about cancer is that, if you detect it at an early stage, then standard treatments, usually surgery and radiation, will cure the disease. But if the disease is detected late, it's very unusual to cure the disease.

The Latest