EXPERTS have devised a blood test that spots breast cancer five years before symptoms show.
The technique could save thousands of lives as the disease is far easier to treat if detected early.
If a further trial supports findings the technique could replace the mammogram as a screening method within four years, say scientists.
The test shows changes in the body’s immune response to proteins produced by tumour cells.
It flagged early cancer signs in up to 37 per cent of cases — and correctly ruled it out in 79 per cent.
The Nottingham University experts tested 180 women and plan a study on 800 to improve its accuracy.
Researcher Daniyah Alfattani told the National Cancer Research Institute’s Glasgow conference it could then be used to improve early detection.
He said: “It would be cost- effective and an easier screening method to implement compared to current methods, such as mammography.”
Dr Kotryna Temcinaite, of Breast Cancer Now, hailed the “exciting” study.
She said: “Finding ways to detect breast cancer earlier will be crucial if we’re to stop more women dying from the disease.”
Breast cancer kills around 12,000 Brits a year.
The survival rate after five years is 99 per cent if it is picked up at stage 1, falling to 15 per cent at stage 4.