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New breath test could detect cancer before symptoms present

New breath test could detect cancer before symptoms present

New breath test could detect cancer before symptoms present

In the not-so-distant future, cancer could be diagnosed as simply as determining your drink-drive status. Researchers are about to start trialing a breathalyzer-like cancer test they hope will be able to diagnose the disease from simple chemical changes to your breath.

But what if not even a blood test was needed to detect cancer, merely a few lungfuls of air? A new clinical trial in the U.K. is aiming to find out whether this might indeed be possible.

Researchers want to find out if signals of different cancer types can be picked up in patterns of breath molecules.

The Cancer Research UK team in Cambridge will collect breath samples from 1,500 people, some with cancer.

If the technology is proven, the hope is that breath tests could be used in GP practices to decide if patients need to be referred for more tests.

They could potentially be used alongside blood and urine tests to help doctors detect cancer at an early stage, the researchers said.

“We urgently need to develop new tools, like this breath test, which could help to detect and diagnose cancer earlier, giving patients the best chance of surviving their disease,” said Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, lead investigator of the clinical trial.

It’s still very early stages but if the results of this trial are positive, it isn’t just people at known risk of cancer who may benefit from the breath test. Fitzgerald foresees it as a screening tool that can be used to detect cancer in the earliest stages – before a patient notices symptoms even.

“Eventually, I imagine it used as a screening tool where you test well people, or a triage test that can sit in the surgery to help GPs know who to refer,” she added.

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