A simple breath test could save lives by diagnosing deadly cancers early.
British research shows the breathalyzer is 85 per cent accurate at identifying stomach and esophageal cancers, which between them affect 16,000 men and women a year. Both types of cancer are often diagnosed late, leading to poor survival rates. Scientists hope the new breath test will ultimately lead to cancers being spotted earlier, resulting in more effective treatment and saved lives.It is also expected to help doctors avoid unnecessary endoscopy examinations – unpleasant diagnostic procedures that require a flexible telescope to be inserted down the throat and into the stomach.
The procedure is expensive and can be uncomfortable. Once diagnosed, around 85 per cent of sufferers die within five years. By the time symptoms appear, the disease is often in later stages.But scientists believe the new tests, which measures five different chemicals in each breath, could make it simpler to screen patients earlier. The chemicals give vital clues on whether someone has cancer or a less serious gastric condition.
Dr Sheraz Markar, one of the trial researchers from Imperial College London, said: “At present the only way to diagnose esophageal cancer or stomach cancer is with endoscopy. This method is expensive, invasive and has some risk of complications.”A breath test could be used as a , first-line test to reduce the number of unnecessary endoscopes. In the longer term this could also mean earlier diagnosis and treatment, and better survival.”
Each year in the UK around 6,682 people are diagnosed with stomach cancer and 4,576 die from the disease.There are 8,919 cases of esophageal cancer, affecting the food pipe or gullet, with 7,790 deaths.For the new study breath samples were collected from 335 patients at three London hospitals. Of these, 163 had been diagnosed with esophageal or stomach cancer while 172 were shown to be cancer-free after undergoing endoscopy tests.