Thanks to a pilot study which might help identify those at higher risk, clinicians can now predict more accurately patients who suffer from the side-effects of radiotherapy.
The study outlined the use of a new technology called FAIMS (Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry).
Gastrointestinal side-effects are commonplace in radiotherapy patients and occasionally severe, yet there is no existing means of predicting which patients will suffer from them, the journal Sensors reports.
Ramesh Arasaradnam, study co-author from Warwick Medical School and gastroenterologist at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, said: "By using this technology we can analyse stool samples and sniff out the chemicals that are produced by these microflora to better predict the risk of side-effects."
"In essence, we will be able to predict those who are likely to develop severe gut-related side-effects by the pattern of gut fermentation that are altered as a result of radiotherapy," he said.
"This will enable future directed therapy in these high risk groups," he said, according to a Warwick statement.
James Covington, from the Warwick School of Engineering added: "This technology offers considerable opportunities for the future. This shows just one application of being able to inform treatment by 'sniffing' patients."
"We foresee a time when such technology will become as routine a diagnostic test as checking blood pressure is today."