Breath test ‘spots stomach cancer’

Stomach cancer ‘spotted by breath test’

Earlier diagnosis and treatment could save more lives

A quick and straightforward breath test can diagnose stomach cancer, study findings reveal.

Scientists from Israel and China found the test was 90% accurate at detecting and distinguishing cancers from other stomach complaints in 130 patients.

The British Journal of Cancer says the test could revolutionise and accelerate the way in which this cancer is diagnosed.

About 7,000 UK people develop stomach cancer every year and most have a complicated stage of the disease.

Two-fifths of patients survive for no less than a year, but just a fifth are still alive after five years, despite treatment.

Currently doctors diagnose stomach cancer by taking a biopsy of the tummy lining using a probe and a versatile camera passed via mouth and down the gullet.

The new test looks for chemical profiles in exhaled breath which are unique to patients with stomach cancer.

Volatile organic compounds

Cancer appears to offer off a signature smell of volatile organic compounds that may be detected using the appropriate technical medical kit – and even perhaps dogs.

The science behind the test itself isn’t very new – many researchers was engaged on the potential for breath tests for a couple of cancers, including lung.

But the work by Prof Hossam Haick, of the Israel Institute of Technology, suggests it’s a great way to identify stomach cancer.

In the study, 37 of the patients had stomach cancer, 32 had stomach ulcers and 61 had other stomach complaints.

As well as accurately distinguishing between these conditions 90% of the time, the breath test could tell the variation between early and late-stage stomach cancers.

The team at the moment are running a much bigger study in additional patients to validate their test.

Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK, said: “The result of this latest study are promising – although large scale trials will now be had to confirm these findings.

“Just one in five individuals are ready to have surgery as element of their treatment as most stomach cancers are diagnosed at stages which are too advanced for surgery. Any test which can help diagnose stomach cancers earlier would make a difference to patients’ long-term survival.”