Up to 90% of endometriosis cases could be detected by a pioneering blood test developed by scientists in the UK.
The painful condition, which sees tissue similar to the lining of the womb grow in places such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes, takes an average of seven-and-a-half years to diagnose from the first onset of symptoms.
Experts say the new test, which looks for tiny DNA fragments in the blood, will be welcome relief for the 1.5 million British women thought to be affected, as it could spare them the need to undergo keyhole surgery.
Until now laparoscopy – where a camera is inserted into the pelvis – has been the most effective way to diagnose endometriosis, but the blood test will soon be the go-to option as it can produce results within a few days.
It is hoped that it will be available privately at a cost of about £250 before the end of the year, and via the NHS in the not too distant future.
Developer MDNA Life Sciences, which came up with the test alongside researchers at the University of Oxford, believe that nine in 10 cases can be accurately detected – even in the early stages of the condition.
Test kits are being put together for clinical laboratories in the UK and around the world, and should it prove successful it is hoped that similar tests for a range of cancers will follow.
MDNA has developed a blood test for prostate cancer and is looking to release tests for ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer next year, with lung, liver, and stomach cancer tests to potentially follow in 2021.
Company chairman Harry Smart said the endometriosis test was “groundbreaking” and would “fundamentally change the way this debilitating disease is detected and diagnosed”.
Dr Christian Becker, from the Nuffield Department of Women’s and Reproductive Health at the University of Oxford, said the test would help relieve huge pressure on society.
“Endometriosis not only causes enormous suffering to the affected women, but also brings a tremendous medical and economic burden to bear on society,” she said.
“There is a long lag phase between the onset and diagnosis of the disease, mainly due to its non-specific symptoms and because it can only be diagnosed invasively by laparoscopy.
“A specific, non-invasive test to aid diagnosis of endometriosis is certainly an unmet clinical need.”
The findings were published in the journal Biomarkers In Medicine.