Breath test could detect stomach cancer

Breath test could detect stomach cancer

One of the fundamental truths about cancer is the earlier it’s detected, the better.

If doctors locate a tumor just after it forms, there’s an increased chance of successful treatment.

Unfortunately, there are no early screening methods for most types of cancer.

But medical science is always progressing.

For example, a paper published recently in the journal Gut shows there may be a viable, inexpensive test for early detection of stomach cancer.

This cancer strikes about 25,000 Americans each year. Only 30 percent of patients survive past five years, partly because stomach cancer is usually diagnosed in its late stages. So, early detection could make a real difference.

The test researchers studied uses breath samples. It works by recognizing certain airborne chemicals that are present in specific proportions when someone has stomach cancer.

The study involved about 500 patients, including 100 who’d already been diagnosed as having stomach cancer. Each patient gave two breath samples because two analytical methods were used. The first method was expensive and identified and quantified the chemicals present in the sample. The second, more inexpensive test simply indicated whether the telltale chemical signature was present.

The results showed that the inexpensive test was about 90 percent accurate. But the results were verified only by comparison with the expensive breath test, not with a definitive biopsy.

Nonetheless, a breath test for stomach cancer sounds promising. The researchers are moving forward with a larger study.

Perhaps one day, your routine check-up will include this test. If it does, you’ll know that any developing stomach cancer will be caught early. And that should help you breathe a little easier.

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