According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States. In 2008, 142,950 people were diagnosed and 52,857 people died from it.
Although early diagnosis can often lead to a complete cure, many people who should get tested, don’t. Maybe it’s because the current diagnostic tests for colorectal cancer include colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy.
Few people in America will forget that day almost 12 years ago when Katie Couric underwent a colonoscopy, live on the “Today” show in an effort to encourage screening after her husband, Jay Monahan, died of colon cancer in 1998. And while she did her best to show that the procedure does not have to be either uncomfortable or embarrassing, and there was a 20% spike in colonoscopies in the years that followed, according to the CDC half of colorectal cases are still being diagnosed in the late stages
This is, please excuse the pun, a huge bummer, because if found in the early stages, colon cancer has a survival rate of over 90 percent.
Which is why SRxA’s Word on Health was excited to read a new study, published in a supplement to the British Journal of Surgery, which showed that a simple breath analysis could be used for colorectal cancer screening.
Apparently, cancer tissue has different metabolism compared to normal healthy cells and produces some substances which can be detected in the breath of these patients. Analysis of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) linked to cancer represents a new frontier in cancer screening.
Donato Altomare, MD, of the Department of Emergency and Organ Transplantation and his team of researchers at the University Aldo Moro of Bari, collected exhaled breath samples from 37 patients with colorectal cancer and 41 healthy controls.
Results showed that patients with colorectal cancer have a different selective VOC pattern compared with healthy controls. Tests based upon these VOC’s are able to discriminate patients with colorectal cancer with an accuracy of over 75%.
“The technique of breath sampling is very easy and non-invasive, although the method is still in the early phase of development,” Altomare notes. “Our study’s findings provide further support for the value of breath testing as a screening tool.”
A previous pilot breath test study showed that the technique is not only able to detect cancer, but it can also differentiate between the four most common forms of cancer: lung, bowel, breast and prostate.
While this is all still at an early stage there is no doubt that simplifying the methods for early diagnosis of cancer, will have a significant impact on cutting death rates.