The British Journal of Cancer published research conducted by Israeli and Chinese students that found a bad breath detector has a 90 percent accuracy rate in distinguishing stomach cancer with other common stomach issues in 130 patients. This new breath test is very promising because stomach cancer is difficult to detect, and oftentimes it is too late to control the cancer when doctors determine that a patient is suffering from it. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate of stomach cancer is only about 38 percent because of this.
This detector tests bad breath caused by cancerous growths that release volatile organic compounds. It uses a nanomaterial sensor that analyzes the chemicals that are released through the mouth to determine if the bad breath is a sign of the development of stomach cancer. This new method would be much less invasive and simpler than an endoscopy, which is the current and most common method to detect stomach cancer. An endoscopy requires a long, flexible tube with a small camera to be extended down the throat and into the digestive system. But the new detector could be used during a routine checkup by any general practitioner.
“The promising findings from this early study suggest that using a breath test to diagnose stomach cancers, as well as more benign complaints, could be a future alternative to endoscopies – which can be costly and time-consuming, as well as unpleasant to the patient,” Dr. Hossam Haick of Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and the leader of the team that developed the bad breath detector said.
The breath detector test has a distinct chemical pattern that is fine enough to cancel out any bad breath from food, alcohol or tobacco. It can also determine the stage of cancer. Detecting between early- and late-stage stomach cancer could make a huge difference in terms of treatment, and could allow doctors to be able to treat it effectively. Only one in five patients are able to receive surgery for stomach cancer because the majority of sufferers find out too late that they have cancer.
In the study, of the 130 patients complaining of stomach issues, 37 had stomach cancer, 32 had stomach ulcers and 61 had other ailments. Now, clinical researchers will plan to do extensive research on a larger number of patients to validate the test.
Take preventative measures
The American Cancer Society’s estimates for stomach cancer detection and death in the United States for 2013 are 21,600 and 10,990 cases, respectively. The average age for detection is about 70, and nearly two-thirds of individuals who are diagnosed with stomach cancer are over the age of 65. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than women, but the overall risk is 1 in 116.
There are many different risk factors for stomach cancer, some of which are predetermined by genetics, ethnicity, blood type and geography. A family history of stomach cancer is another risk factor.
However, there are some ways to decrease chances of getting stomach cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, eating a diet high in smoked meats, salted fish and meat, and pickled vegetables plays a role. Nitrates and nitrites are typically found in cured meats, and can be converted into bacteria that cause stomach cancer. However, eating fruits and vegetables lowers the risk because the antioxidants in produce can block the cancer-causing substances. Obesity and tobacco use are other common causes of stomach cancer.