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Stomach cancer detected by ‘breath test’

A new test has been developed to determine whether patients are suffering from stomach cancer. A quick and simple breath test can efficiently diagnose patients with the disease, study findings have revealed.

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

The British Journal of Cancer says the new test could revolutionise and speed up the way this cancer is diagnosed, which in turn could help save lives.

The study managed to accurately distinguish the difference between conditions such as stomach cancer, stomach ulcers and stomach complaints, as well as determining whether the cancer is in its earlier or later stages. The team are now running a larger study and including more patients in order to validate their research further.

Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK, said, “The results of this latest study are promising, although large scale trials will now be needed to confirm these findings. Only one in five people are able to have surgery as part of their treatment as most stomach cancers are diagnosed at stages that are too advanced for surgery. Any test that could help diagnose stomach cancers earlier would make a difference to patients’ long-term survival.”

About 7,000 UK people develop stomach cancer each year and most people diagnosed have an advanced stage of the disease. Around two-fifths of patients survive for at least a year after their diagnosis, but only a fifth are still alive after five years despite progressive treatments.

Currently, stomach cancer is diagnosed by GP’s taking a biopsy of the patient’s stomach lining using a probe and a flexible state-of-the-art camera passed via mouth and down the gullet. The new test differs by looking for chemical molecules in exhaled breath which are unique to people with stomach cancer.

Breath tests being used to diagnose cancers isn’t a new idea – the science behind the test itself has been researched for years, with many scientists working on the possibility of breath tests for a number of cancers, including lung.

Cancer gives off a distinct smell of organic compounds which, although not picked up by our human noses, can be ‘sniffed out’ by more sensitive technology – like a dog’s nose or the right medical kit.

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