Breast cancer is the most commonly suffered cancer in the UK where about 50,000 females are diagnosed each year. It is the second biggest killer, after lung cancer, which claims about 1,000 females per month.
Scientists have successfully developed a breath test which can be used as a check for breast cancer. According to researchers, this test offers the same accuracy level as x-rays that are generally used in hospitals. It takes under 10 minutes for the disease to be detected.
This will reduce the need for mammograms which most females dislike undergoing. In view of the reduction in discomfort and embarrassment, the medical world is hoping that more women will be willing to take the test. The test also reduces the exposure to radiation women have to undergo during testing.
The kit is being developed by a US company and has already become available in certain parts of Europe. All this is required is for the woman to breath into the breathalyser for a period of two minutes. The air that is pulled through into a machine analyses the chemical levels. The results of this analysis are fed through a computer system which calculates if there is breast cancer present, based on the chemical patterns that have been produced.
A professor at the New York Medical College, Michael Phillips, has stated that if the result is negative, the chances of a woman not having breast cancer are above 99.9%. Once this point has reached, the patient and her physician will make the decision to send her for further tests.
The accuracy of the device is lower, so those who produce a positive breath test may still need a mammogram.
Dr Phillips has however stressed that further tests need to be done before this device can become the first choice for screening. He is optimistic that one day breath tests will be used as a screening method for different infections and different types of cancer. It will become as common as urine and blood tests.
More research is required before this method of testing for breast cancer could be considered the most effective method.
Image credit: Steve Snodgrass