Take a Breath: A Simple Test That Can Detect Stomach Cancer

   |  Updated: June 24, 2015 15:03 IST

Take a Breath: A Simple Test That Can Detect Stomach Cancer
One of the most dreaded diseases of all time, cancer continues to affect millions across the globe. Despite the medical advancements and latest technologies over the years, there is no absolute cure. The only hope is for it to be detected at an early stage so that the treatments can show result.

Bringing in some good news with this regard is a team of British researchers who have developed a breath test that can detect oesophageal and gastric (stomach) cancer in minutes with 90 percent accuracy. The test has produced encouraging results in a clinical study of 210 patients, and will now be tested in a larger trial involving three hospitals in London.

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There are various kinds of cancer that can affect a human being, with each being equally as potent. Oesophageal and gastric malignancies account for 15 percent of cancer-related deaths globally.

Doctors diagnose oesophageal and gastric cancers by carrying out an endoscopy. This is a procedure where the inside of the body is examined using a probe with a light source and video camera. However, the procedure is invasive and expensive. Moreover, only two percent of patients who are referred for an endoscopy by GPs are diagnosed with oesophageal or gastric cancer.

(Patients Rarely Recognise Telltale Signs of Cancer - Study)“Our breath test could address these problems because it can help diagnose patients with early non-specific symptoms as well as reduce the number of invasive endoscopies carried out on patients, which often lead to negative results,” said lead author of the study George Hanna from Imperial College London.

“Diagnosis at an early stage could give patients more treatment options and ultimately save more lives," Hanna noted.

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The test looks for chemical compounds in exhaled breath that are unique to patients with oesophageal and gastric cancer. Cancers produce a distinctive smell of volatile organic compounds (VOC), chemicals that contain carbon and are found in all living things, which can help doctors detect early signs of the disease. 

To take the test, patients breathe into a device similar to a breathalyser which is connected to a bag. The compounds in their exhaled breath are analysed by a selected ion flow tube mass spectrometer. The researchers used breath samples of patients with oesophageal and gastric cancer from 2011 to 2013. 

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If this test could really show 90 percent accuracy and given a go-ahead to be used across medical care facilities, then there is some hope to handling the deadly disease.

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The study was published in the journal Annals of Surgery.

Inputs from IANS.

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