Scientists have developed a breath test to identify stomach cancer from a range of other conditions, leading to hope that it could soon be available to patients with private medical insurance.
A simple breath test has been developed for stomach cancer
Around 7,000 people are diagnosed with stomach cancer in the UK each year, with men twice as likely to be affected then women.
Diagnosis currently involves taking a biopsy of the stomach lining using a probe and a flexible camera, which is passed down the gullet via the mouth.
But scientists from Israel and China have now developed a test that looks for the signature smell of chemicals given off by stomach cancer cells exhaled in the breath.
Researchers carried out the new test on 130 patients. 37 of the participants had stomach cancer, 32 had stomach ulcers and 61 had a variety of other stomach complaints.
Writing in the British Journal of Cancer, they found that the breath test could accurately distinguish between conditions 90% of the time. In addition, it could differentiate between early and late-stage stomach cancers.
Whilst the science behind the test is not new, experts hope that it could revolutionise and speed up the way stomach cancer is diagnosed. Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK, said:
"The results of this latest study are promising - although large scale trials will now be needed to confirm these findings."
"Only one in five people are able to have surgery as part of their treatment as most stomach cancers are diagnosed at stages that are too advanced for surgery. Any test that could help diagnose stomach cancers earlier would make a difference to patients' long-term survival."
The scientists are now trialling the test on a larger group of patients.
New drugs and procedures like this one have to be approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) before they are made widely available on the NHS, a process which can take some time.
For access to the latest medical technology, look for a health insurance policy with full cancer cover. Many policies will cover the licensed cost of drugs and procedures even if they are not approved by NICE.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2013