31 innovations

Breath Test That Can Detect Breast Cancer

Scientists have developed a breath test to check for breast cancer. Research shows the kit is at least as accurate as breast X-rays routinely used in hospitals. It takes less than ten minutes to detect the disease and its makers say it may reduce the need for uncomfortable mammograms.

By taking the embarrassment out of the procedure, it could also lead to more woman coming forward for testing, saving lives. It would also mean that women aren’t exposed to radiation during testing. Breast cancer is Britain’s most common cancer, with almost 50,000 women diagnosed a year. It is the second biggest cancer killer among women after lung cancer, claiming almost 1,000 lives a month.

However, the number of women who have three-yearly mammograms is falling, amid concerns that the breast X-rays cannot distinguish dangerous cancers from ones that grow too slowly to ever cause harm.

The BreathLink kit is being developed by a US firm and is already on sale in Europe. It begins with a woman breathing for two minutes into a breathalyser. The air is fed into a machine which analyses the levels of chemicals. The results are crunched by a computer, which determines whether the chemical pattern is a sign of breast cancer.

Research published in the journal PLoS ONE shows it to be at least as accurate as mammograms. This means, the vast majority of women may not need to undergo the trauma of a mammogram. The accuracy for actually spotting the disease is lower and so women who have a positive breath test will still need a mammogram.

The test, which is being developed by Dr Phillips’ firm Menssana Research, is already on sale in Europe. However, Dr Phillips stresses that bigger studies are needed before it becomes the first choice for breast cancer screening.

Source: dailymail.co.ukAdded: 7 March 2014