Unlike some other forms of cancer, a breast cancer diagnosis isn’t always a death sentence – treatment and eventual survival are probable. But when the diagnosis is for stage IV breast cancer, also referred to as metastatic breast cancer, the prognosis is typically far more bleak, which is also why this form of the disease appears on the Social Security Administration’s Compassionate Allowances list.

Though regular screening and a thorough look at a patient’s family history can indicate a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, it hasn’t always been enough to catch the disease or even asses a woman’s risk of developing the disease. That is until now.

Researchers from Harvard University believe they may have come up with a way of detecting a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers can do this by looking for a specific molecular marker known as Ki67 in a woman’s breast tissue. According to the research team’s recent findings, by looking for this marker, they were more likely to predict development of breast cancer in patients.

Because stage IV breast cancer can develop out of earlier stages of breast cancer and because of its high mortality rate, tests like the one Harvard researchers recently developed gives women everywhere hope for the future. Not only could this test indicate a woman’s risk of developing the disease down the road, it will also be able to tell them how high that risk is. This will give many women the ability to make more educated decisions about their conditions, such as which treatments to undertake and whether applying for disability benefits will be a necessity down the road.