Detecting Breast Cancer Using a Pill

· October 5, 2016
While still in experimental stages, this lighting pill could aid be a more precise method of detecting breast cancer, making treatment more effective.

Until now, detecting breast cancer has been based on self-exams and mammograms. However, there have been cases where diagnostic techniques that use X-rays can give false positives.

For this reason, scientists have been working on new methods for detecting breast cancer earlier on through safe and accurate screenings.

In a study by the University of Michigan, a pill was created that has the ability to make detecting breast cancer cells easier.

While the pill is still in the experimental stage, it has the ability to more precisely identify the location of cancer cells.

Now we’ll go into more detail.

Detecting breast cancer could be quicker, more reliable

False positives are very common. But now, this pill aims to, above all, provide a more accurate diagnosis for women.

Since the pill is still in the testing phase, it has yet to be tested on humans.

According to the director of the study, Greg Thurber, the pill is being used in European clinics and it has shown great success, so expectations are very high.


The pill that only “lights up” cancer cells

The way this pill works is very simple: the patient ingests the tablet orally and it slowly releases a fluorescent agent that that will immediately stick to cancer cells if present.

Cancer cells can then be seen in simple X-ray images.

Scientists feel obligated to develop this technique because mammograms aren’t very precise in cases involving women with dense breasts.

  • Additionally, ordinary diagnostic techniques do not show specialists if the cells or the tumor are carcinogenic or benign, which is why false positives are common.
  • This technique was presented with high expectations in the 251st American Chemical Society’s Annual Meeting & Exposition (ACS).
  • In an experiment with rats, it was proven that this pill immediately identified tumor cells.
  • If the tumor is benign, the fluorescent light does not appear, which eliminates the need for a biopsy. As a result, patients are then able to relax.

Within a few years, it will be able to distinguish between quick and slow tumor growth


In several cases, patients’ treatment is postponed. While this may be necessary in some cases, time remains a key factor for obtaining an early diagnosis and lessening the severity.

Currently, the luminescent light can only distinguish between cancerous and benign tumors. It is unable to show the rate at which the malignant cells are growing.

  • Creators of the pill are now trying to include a new element that has the ability to identify the rate of tumor growth.
  • This new element would allow patients to receive an immediate diagnosis and treatment tailored to their specific needs.

Doing so will also prevent techniques from being used that are too aggressive or not aggressive enough. Using the wrong techniques could worsen the situation.

Big steps, higher hopes

It is imperative for doctors to be able to detect cancer early on, but in some cases it’s impossible.

In spite of those severe cases, having breast cancer does not mean a death sentence.

Thanks to advancements in treatment and detection methods, we are facing a treatable disease that millions of women have already overcome.


Breast cancer survivors are authentic heroins that show us that courage and strength can overcome breast cancer. But we still need to be very aware of the following things:

  • Perform daily breast exams.
  • Undergo periodic exams with your healthcare provider and get your mammograms.
  • Live a healthy life, avoid being overweight, don’t smoke or lead a sedentary life.
  • Increase preventative measures and exams if you have a family history of breast cancer.