BY: ELIJAH BASSETT
Nobody wants to hear that they’ve got bad breath, but a recent medical study suggests that it could save your life. The researchers found that a breath test they’d created could detect stomach and esophagus cancer with 85% efficiency, despite those being some of the hardest to diagnose. It works by using a method called selected ion flow-tube mass spectrometry to detect five chemicals that those particular cancer cells produce in the body. It is also accurate in detecting people who do not have those types of cancer.
This could be a major breakthrough because, according to Dr. Sheraz Markar, “at present the only way to diagnose oesophageal cancer or stomach cancer is with endoscopy. This method is expensive, invasive and has some risk of complications.” Esophagus and stomach cancer also have very high mortality rates because the diagnosis tends to come too late. Although the test can’t be used in clinics yet because it needs more research to confirm the benefits, it could save a lot of lives by letting doctors catch the disease and start treatment much sooner.
The researchers are also working on breath tests for other types of cancers, including colorectal and pancreatic, so if they continue to succeed like this, they could revolutionize cancer diagnosis. These tests won’t treat the disease itself, but when doctors can start treatment sooner, it gives the patient better chances of survival since the cancer can’t spread as far.
The extra research necessary to qualify these tests for mainstream use will take about three years, but if all goes well then the process will be able to move forward and into the medical field at large.