Could A Breath Test Detect Stomach Cancer?

First Posted: Apr 14, 2015 01:53 PM EDT

New findings published in the journal Gut show how a new breath test could be used to diagnose stomach cancer and potentially predict whether some individuals could be at risk for the illness later in life.

"Our study is based on the hypothesis that detection of precancerous lesions may provide a tool to decrease either cancer deaths or incidence [of stomach cancer]," Hossam Haick, study leader and head of the laboratory for nanomaterial-based devices and volatile biomarkers at the Technion -- Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, said via Health Day

As it stands, it's estimated that about 24,590 people in the United States alone will be diagnosed with stomach cancer this year. Though it's more common among those 69 and older, young people can be affected by gastric issues as well.

In its early stages, stomach cancers often go undetected. Symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea and weight loss can oftentimes be mistaken for something else.

Researchers at the Israel Institute of Technology used nanoarray analysis for the early identification of stomach cancer, detecting tiny changes in gut compounds that were exhaled in individuals' breath.

The researchers obtained two breath samples from 484 individuals, in which 99 had already been diagnosed with stomach cancer but had not yet been treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

The breath test revealed common patterns that were helpful in showing whether participants had low or high risks of developing cancer. However, researchers admitted that further studies will be needed before breath tests can be used for clinical trials.

However, in the future, they believe this could be a promising early detection tool for patients.

"Diagnosing cancer in its early stages offers patients the best chance of successful treatment, so research like this has potential to help save lives," Emma Smith of Cancer Research UK said to BBC News. "But we would need to be sure the test is sensitive and accurate enough to be used more widely."

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