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Bowel cancer breath test

5th December 2012

Bowel cancer could one day be diagnosed by a simple breath test.

inhaler

Scientists say the test they have developed can accurately tell whether or not a person has bowel cancer.

Writing in the British Journal of Surgery, the team say the test they have devised looks for exhaled chemicals linked to tumour activity and in trials was able to identify a majority of patients with the disease.

Despite claims that it is accurate in more than three-quarters of cases other experts say that it could be some time before such a test is widely available for use on patients.

But it comes a scientists continue to work on breath-tests for other diseases, including several types of cancer, TB and diabetes.

Current bowel cancer screening looks for signs of blood in faeces.

To devise the breath test the hospital team from Bari, Italy, compared the breath of 37 patients known to have bowel cancer with that of 41 “controls” who were thought to be healthy with accuracy in 76% of cases.

They said findings supported the value of breath-testing as a screening tool but acknowledged that bigger studies with a greater number of patients were now needed to fine-tune the test and confirm it worked.

Dr Claire Turner, a lecturer in analytical chemistry at the Open University, said: “These technologies show a great deal of promise, and hopefully we will see larger studies in the future.

“However, we are unlikely to see this kind of breath testing available widely in the short term.”

 

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