A simple blood test could improve early diagnosis of myeloma, a rare cancer, a study has found.
The study, published in the British Journal of General Practice, investigated the best combination of blood tests that could be used to diagnose myeloma.
Researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Exeter in the UK suggested a number of combinations of these tests sufficient to rule out the disease, and to diagnose it, saving the patient from the worry of specialist referral.
Blood tests of 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 among other relevant parameters.
The researchers demonstrated that a simple combination of two blood parameters could be enough to diagnose patients. Such blood tests are routinely conducted in surgeries.
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 rule out myeloma," said Constantinos Koshiaris from Oxford University.
Also Read | Drug-laced mosquito net may help prevent malaria
"If abnormalities are detected in this test, it should lead to urgent urine protein tests which can help speed up diagnosis," Koshiaris said.
Myeloma can lead to symptoms such as bone pain, fatigue and kidney failure. It has the longest diagnosis process of all common cancers, and a large number of patients are diagnosed after emergency care, over a third of which having had at least three primary care consultations.
"Ordinarily a GP will see a patient with myeloma every five years - and early diagnosis matters," said Willie Hamilton, a professor at the University of Exeter Medical School.
"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," said Hamilton.