A simple breath test designed to detect nanoparticles could be used to discover stomach cancer in patients for quicker and more efficient diagnosis, Cancer Research UK has revealed.

The breath test, developed by scientists from China and Israel, was found to be 90% accurate in detecting and distinguishing cancer from other stomach complaints in 130 patients.

Currently, stomach cancer is diagnosed by a biopsy of a patient’s stomach lining, using a probe and camera sent down through the mouth and gullet.

This much simpler, more comfortable diagnosis test could revolutionise and speed up the way stomach cancer is diagnosed.

The study of the test, ran by Professor Hossam Haick of the Israel Institute of Technology , worked with 37 patients who had stomach cancer, 32 who had stomach ulcers and 61 who had other stomach complaints.

Not only did the breath test show accuracy 90% of the time in distinguishing the cancer from other illnesses, but it could also tell the difference between early and late-stage stomach cancers.

Professor Haick said; "The promising findings from this early study suggest that using a breath test to diagnose stomach cancers, as well as more benign complaints, could be a future alternative to endoscopies – which can be costly and time consuming, as well as unpleasant to the patient."

About 7,000 UK people are diagnosed with stomach cancer each year, and most have an advanced stage of the disease, meaning treatment options are limited.

Only two-fifths of patients survive for at least a year, with only a fifth still alive after five years, even with treatment.

Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK, said; "The results of this latest study are promising – although large-scale trials will now be needed to confirm these findings."

In order to validate these current test results, the team is running further tests with a larger number of patients.

Image: This new test could revolutionise how stomach cancer is diagnosed. Photo: Courtesy of Arnout Van Scherpenzeel.