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The revolutionary new breath test to diagnose bowel cancer
test to diagnose bowel cancer
Based on theory that tumours emit specific compounds which are unlikely to be found in healthy peopleSaid to be 76 per cent accurate at identifying tumours
Could represent a ‘new frontier’ in cancer screening
13:36 GMT, 5 December 2012
Scientists have developed a breath test that can accurately tell if a person has bowel cancer.
The test, which works by identifying chemicals associated with cancer tumours, is said to be 76 per cent accurate.
Experts say it could represent a ‘new frontier’ in cancer screening.
The test, which works by identifying chemicals associated with cancer tumours, is said to be 76 per cent accurate
Cancer tissue has a different metabolism to healthy cells and produces volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can be detected in patients’ breath, reports the British Journal of Surgery.
The theory is that tumours emit specific compounds which are unlikely to be found in healthy people.
Dr Donato Altomare, of the University Aldo Moro of Bari, collected exhaled breath from 37 patients with colorectal cancer and 41 healthy controls.
The results showed that patients with colorectal cancer had a different pattern of VOCs compared with their healthy counterparts.
Dr Altomare said: ‘The technique of breath sampling is very easy and non-invasive, although the method is still in the early phase of development.
‘Our study’s findings provide further support for the value of breath testing as a screening tool.’
It is thought the technique could help identify patients whose cancer was returning after treatment.
If diagnosed and treated early, the
chances of stopping bowel cancer can be good, but there is often little
or no outward sign of the disease until it has progressed significantly.
Breath tests have been suggested for a variety of diseases, including other types of cancer, TB and diabetes
Currently, everyone between the ages of 60 and 69 is offered bowel cancer screening every two years, and the screening programme is currently being extended in England to those aged 70 to 75.
Screening is carried out by taking a small stool sample and testing it for the presence of blood (a faecal occult blood test).
In addition, an extra screening test is being introduced over the next three years for all people at age 55. This test involves a camera examination of the lower bowel called a flexible sigmoidoscopy.
Breath-tests have been suggested for a variety of diseases, including other types of cancer, TB and diabetes.
But Dr Claire Turner, a lecturer in analytical chemistry at the Open University, told the BBC it was often difficult to interpret the cocktail of chemicals contained in every breath, as they could be influenced by what the patient had been eating, or even just by being ill or spending time in a hospital environment.
Scientists are working on breath-tests for a host of other diseases, including several types of cancer, TB and diabetes.
BOWEL CANCER: THE THIRD BIGGEST KILLER
Bowel cancer is the third most common type of cancer – in 2009, there were 41,142 new cases registered in the UK.
Approximately 72 per cent of bowel cancer cases develop in people who are 65 or over. Two-thirds of bowel cancers develop in the colon, with the remaining third developing in the rectum.
The initial symptoms of bowel cancer include:
Blood in the stools (faeces) or bleeding from your rectumA change to normal bowel habits that persists for more than three weeks, such as diarrhoea, constipation or passing stools more frequently than usualUnexplained weight lossAbdominal pain
For more information: www.bowelcancerresearch.org