New Urine Tester Can Sniff Bladder Cancer

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British researchers have created a new urine tester that can sniff bladder cancer. They expect it will eventually replace the use of repeated scoping to check for new cancer cells and could lower the cost of treating the illness.

The scientists have named the new device the Odoreader, according to Medical News Today. The research team represents a collaboration between the University of the West of England in Bristol and the University of Liverpool.

To test a sample, a technician inserts a bottle with urine into the Odoreader and starts the device, which reads gases that chemicals in the urine sample can emit when heated. After approximately 30 minutes, a computer screen indicates whether the sample is from a patient who has bladder cancer.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that 54,610 men and 17,960 women will receive a diagnosis of bladder cancer in 2013. The agency expects that 15,210 patients will succumb to this type of cancer in that year.

The current U.S. tools to diagnose cancer of the bladder include cystoscopy, biopsy, urine cytology, and imaging tests such as CT scans, according to the Mayo Clinic. Doctors often periodically repeat the scoping procedure -- cystoscopy -- in patients with a bladder cancer diagnosis. While the patient is under a local anesthetic, the physician inserts the cystoscope through the urethra to examine the interior of the bladder and the urethra. Compared to this procedure, use of a device like the Odoreader is easier, faster, and far less expensive.

Prior research using dogs to sniff out specific chemicals suggested the animals were very accurate. Researchers were successful to a degree when they trained dogs to respond to urine samples from bladder cancer patients. However, their use in a hospital or outpatient facility isn't practical.

Initial testing showed that the new device was able to detect cancer in 100 percent of the patients with the disease. The UK team used 98 samples to develop the Odoreader. They tested it on 74 samples from patients with urological symptoms but who did not have cancer and on 24 from individuals confirmed to have the disease.

According to study author Chris Probert, it's possible to treat bladder cancer effectively when it's detected early. However, the traditional methods of screening can only detect the illness at a stage where it's more difficult to treat.

Encouraged by their initial findings, the researchers plan on testing with a bigger group of patients before offering the device to hospitals to sniff bladder cancer.

Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.

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