Researchers in Florida and Taiwan published a study in the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology B revealing that they have created a palm-sized device that can detect breast cancer with just a single drop of saliva in only five seconds.

The technology uses commercially available disposable strips, similar to those used by diabetics to test glucose levels, and cheap open-source hardware called Arduino, to detect for the presence of specific breast cancer biomarkers (HER2 and CA15-3) that are contained in saliva.

When the saliva hits the strip, researchers treat it with antibodies which then sends electrical signals through the device. The electrical signals are then translated into an electronic reading showing the levels of breast cancer detected. Even better, the device itself is reusable.

The publication highlights that, “the simplicity of operation and the potential for widespread public use in the future position this approach as a transformative tool in the early detection of breast cancer. This research not only provides a crucial advancement in diagnostic methodologies but also holds the promise of revolutionizing public health practices.”

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US, the UK and the world, and while death rates have fallen due to awareness, screen and treatment, many places of the world do not have public health systems with the capacity to follow ideal protocols, nor do all women have access to health care.

While the initial results of the study are very promising, the test will need several years to become available as it must be further tried, developed, and pass through regulatory bodies.

The American Cancer Society says that one in five breast cancer patients is HER2 positive and 80% have elevated CA 15-3 levels.