CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Some good news to report on the treatment of cancer.
Promising research may soon lead to patients learning they have cancer even before a tumor grows.
Joann Marrero is one of the lucky ones. When she got a breast cancer diagnosis last year when it was in the early stages of the disease.
"I think my prognosis is very good," says Marrero.
Catching cancer early can dramatically improve a patient's prognosis.
And as a result of the research happening inside this lab, doctors may eventually have the ability to detect various cancers sooner than ever before.
"There's a big interest now in these proteins called biomarkers that increase in concentration in blood when people start to get cancer," says Dr. James Rusling.
Professor James Rusling and his team are studying prostate and oral cancer biomarkers.
He says doctors do currently screen for single biomarkers in the blood, but the testing's not that accurate.
That's where research differs. These scientists are looking at a combination of biomarkers.
"It can facilitate new treatments and treatments that can be used to avoid surgery for example because what biomarker proteins can do is tell if someone has a problem that's going to lead to cancer in the very new future so even before a tumor is evolved," says Dr. Rusling.
Dr. Molly Brewer, a gynecological oncologist treats women with various reproductive cancers.
She says early detection is the most powerful tool in the fight against cancer.
"It's more curable. If you detect a small lesion you can cure it. If you detect a lesion starting to metastasize your chances of curing it are less," says Dr. Molly Brewer.
Additionally, if biomarkers can find cancers early, there will be less patients needing treatments such as chemo and radiation.
"Chemo, radiation they're all fraught with complications and patients get sick, patients feel bad, they'll be out of work. So if you could avoid all of those, that would be a thousand times better," says Dr. Brewer.
The big question now, when might this be available to patients?
One researcher says that depends on a lot of factors, but it's possible to have the device in a form it can be used within the next 5 to 10 years.