Simple blood tests taken at a GP surgery could help to detect multiple myeloma early, new research has claimed.
Research by University of Oxford statistician Constantinos Koshiaris, and colleagues from the University of Exeter and Chiddenbrook Surgery, Devon, have found that combining a normal haemoglobin and plasma viscosity or erythrocyte sedimentation rate can be used to rule out the disease in patients who are tested in primary care.
Blood samples from 2,703 cases taken up to five years prior to diagnosis were analysed and compared with those of 12,157 patients without the cancer, matching cases with control patients of similar age amongst other relevant parameters.
They demonstrated that the simple combination of the two blood parameters could be enough to diagnose patients.
Lead author Koshiaris said: "The combination of levels of haemoglobin, the oxygen carrier in the blood, and one of two inflammatory markers (erythrocyte sedimentation rate or plasma viscosity) are a sufficient test [to] rule out myeloma. If abnormalities are detected in this test, it should lead to urgent urine protein tests which can help speed up diagnosis.”
Writing in British Journal of General Practice, they also observed that those diagnosed with multiple myeloma were more likely to have recently presented with back pain, rib pain, chest pain, and recurrent chest infections, suggesting that testing should be a priority for these patients.
In addition, it was suggested that if either of the tests show any abnormalities, it is reasonable for clinicians to request urgent further blood and urine tests to get to a swift diagnosis.
Integration of these results into patient records could help facilitate the early diagnosis of myeloma.
Principal investigator Professor Willie Hamilton, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said "Ordinarily a GP will see a patient with myeloma every five years - and early diagnosis matters. More timely treatment could significantly improve survival rates for this disease.
"We report a simple way a GP can check patients presenting symptoms such as back, rib and chest pain, or recurrent chest infections, and determine whether they have myeloma or not.”
Source: Koshiaris, C., Van den Bruel, A., Oke, J.L., Nicholson, B.D., Shephard, E., Braddick, M. and Hamilton, W., 2018. Early detection of multiple myeloma in primary care using blood tests: a case–control study in primary care. Br J Gen Pract, p.bjgp18X698357.
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