Researchers may have found a way to detect colorectal cancer through the use of breath tests. The study, published in the British Journal of Surgery, included 37 patients with colorectal cancer and 41 without.
Patients were evaluated by exhaling into an inert bag (similar to the device used by police to test whether a driver has had too much to drink) and processed by a system that measured the substance for volatile organic compounds or VOCs.
The chemicals released by the patients were identified as somewhat of a chemical “fingerprint” helping the researchers identify the patients with cancer at 75 percent accuracy.
“It’s an interesting concept, but this is in the very early stages,” said Dr. Durado Brooks, director of prostate and colorectal cancers for the American Cancer Society, in statement on WOWKTV.
The breath test, still in its infancy, may encourage opportunities for easier and more frequent testing for the 40 percent of Americans who aren’t getting tested but should be.
The Courier Journal stated that the use of breath tests to catch cancer is not an entirely new concept. “Researchers are looking into breath tests for detecting a number of cancers, including lung and breast tumors.”
Traditional testing for colorectal cancer involve four distinctive tests which include (see further details on colorectal screening tests from the National Cancer Institute here): the fecal occult blood test, sigmoidoscopy, barium enema and a colonoscopy. New screening tests currently being studied for future use include virtual colonoscopies and DNA stool tests.
People should begin testing for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50 or for individuals who are genetically predisposed to developing polyps.
Colorectal cancer is a preventable disease and its development has been linked to high red meat consumption, processed meats and low consumption of fruits and vegetables.