Journal of the National Cancer Institute
Using a breast pump to collect fluid from the nipple may be a simple and non-invasive way to gauge a woman´s risk of breast cancer up to two decades before a diagnosis is made.
Their study found that women whose breast fluid showed extra, abnormal cell growth, known as atypical hyperplasia, were about twice as likely to develop breast cancer as women whose breasts did not produce fluid.
The technique of nipple aspiration combined with analysis of the cells identified women who were at increased risk and is one of several factors, including family history and history of breast biopsy, that have been shown to be associated with increased risk.
Currently, physicians extract cells from the breast through a technique known as fine-needle aspiration. But the procedure is associated with complications and is used mainly on women who may already be in the early stages of the disease.
Nipple aspiration, which uses a small cup that fits over the nipple and extracts fluid through suction, is a simpler technique that can be performed by a nurse or assistant on women in the general population.
The study included more than 7,600 women who had been recruited to the study at two points. Overall, about 60% of the women managed to get fluid at one of three attempts with the manual pump.
Women with abnormal cells were up to 70% more likely to develop breast cancer, compared to women with normal cells in the fluid.
Unfortunately it is too soon to use the procedure clinically, since not all women produce breast fluid.
Journal of the National Cancer Institute December 15, 2001;93:1791-1798; 1762-1763