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Breath test may soon be used to detect bowel cancer

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 6th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Take a breath - shortly, it may be as simple as that to screen someone for bowel cancer. Scientists are hailing the new procedure as a quick and simple way to make a diagnosis for a deadly disease - one that usually is invasive and difficult to perform in a conventional manner.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The test, which works by identifying chemicals associated with cancer tumors, is said to be 76 percent accurate.

Experts say that cancer tissue has a different metabolism to healthy cells and produces volatile organic compounds, or VOCs which can be detected in patients' breath.

According to the British Journal of Surgery, the theory is that tumors emit specific compounds which are unlikely to be found in healthy people.
 
Dr. Donato Altomare, of the University Aldo Moro of Bari, collected exhaled breath from 37 patients with colorectal cancer and 41 healthy test subjects. Results proved that patients with colorectal cancer had a different pattern of VOCs compared with their healthy counterparts.

"The technique of breath sampling is very easy and non-invasive, although the method is still in the early phase of development," Altomare says.

"Our study's findings provide further support for the value of breath testing as a screening tool."

The procedure will be extremely helpful to help identify patients whose cancer was returning after treatment.

If diagnosed and treated early, the chances of stopping bowel cancer can be excellent. The catch is that there is often little or no outward sign of the disease until it has progressed significantly.

Everyone between the ages of 60 and 69 is offered bowel cancer screening every two years. In England, it is offered to patients aged 70 to 75.

Conventional screening is carried out by taking a small stool sample and testing it for the presence of blood, i.e. a fecal occult blood test).

In addition, an extra screening test is being introduced over the next three years for all people at age 55. This test involves a camera examination of the lower bowel called a flexible sigmoidoscopy.

Breath-tests have been suggested for a variety of diseases, including other types of cancer, TB and diabetes.

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