Simple Breath Test Can Reveal If You Have Stomach Cancer

Researchers have discovered that simple breath test can show if you have stomach cancer.The test was proven to be effective in a clinical study and now it will be further investigated in three major hospitals in London.


Researchers used this test on 210 patients and they found that the test can make distinction between malignant and benign cancer in the patients.

The test is even 90% accurate and the results are available in a minute unlike other tests which need up to 4-6 hours.

This test is also cheaper than other method as well as faster and easier to perform.

Even 15% of deaths annually are due to esophageal and gastric malignancies worldwide. Both cancers are usually diagnosed in their advanced stages as they do not cause any noticeable symptoms when they develop. That is why the long-term survival rate is 13 per cent for esophageal cancer and 15 per cent for gastric cancer. But if doctors are able to diagnose these two types of cancer earlier the survival rate with surely increase.

These cancers are usually discovered by endoscopy. Doctors examine the inside of the body with the help of a probe with a light source and video camera at the end through the mouth and down the throat. This procedure is invasive and expensive as well. Only 2% of the patients who had endoscopy are diagnosed with esophageal or gastric cancer.

Scientists at Imperial College London and clinicians at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust conveyed   the first study which was published in the Annals of Surgery. Researchers from UCL (University College London), Keele University Medical School, Heyrovsky Institute of Physical Chemistry and Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic  also participated in the study.

Now, 400 patients at UCLH (University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust), The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust will be involved in further research. The experts will try to use the findings from the clinical trial to create a sensor device that can signal to doctors if a patient has a cancer.

Professor George Hanna, lead author of the study and Director of NIHR-Diagnostic Evidence Cooperatives at Imperial College London, stated:

“Oesophageal and gastric cancers are on the rise in the UK with more than 16,000 new cases diagnosed each year.  The current method for detecting these cancers is expensive, invasive and a diagnosis is usually made at a late stage and often the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.  This makes it harder to treat and results in poor long-term survival rates.  Our breath test could address these problems because it can help diagnose patients with early non-specific symptoms as well as reduce the number of invasive endoscopies carried out on patients, which often lead to negative results.  Diagnosis at an early stage could give patients more treatment options and ultimately save more lives.”

The test is based on chemicals found in exhaled breath which are specific for patients who suffer from esophageal and gastric cancer. The cancer releases particular smell of volatile organic compounds (VOC). These compounds contain carbon and are usually found in living beings. Experts were able to find for the first time the number of VOCs in breath samples with the help of ion flow tube mass spectrometer. This spectrometer is able to detect what chemicals are present in the sample. VOCs were present at significantly higher concentrations in patients with esophageal and gastric cancer than in the healthy patients.

In order to take the test, the patients breathe into a device similar to a breathalyzer. This device is connected to a bag. Ion flow tube mass spectrometer analyzes the compounds found in the exhaled breath.

There are other similar methods but experts say that they need more time and are not able to measure the amount of VOCs present in exhaled breath.


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