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Breath test can detect lung cancer

February 3, 2014

Patients' breath may be able to indicate whether they are at risk of developing lung cancer, according to new research presented to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. A group of researchers, led by Dr. Michael Bousamra, found that certain chemicals present in the lungs of individuals who may have the disease could be detected in the air they exhale. 

Scientists gathered and studied a group of seniors who had suspicious lung lesions, then tested their breath through the use of a silicone microprocessor and mass spectrometer. The new detection method was 95 percent accurate in detecting the presence of volatile organic compounds, which are commonly associated with lung cancer. After conducting the breath test, scientists compared their results with clinical findings to ensure accuracy.

Bousamra stressed that the new findings would increase patient ease if incorporated into common medical practice.

"Instead of sending patients for invasive biopsy procedures when a suspicious lung mass is identified, our study suggests that exhaled breath could identify which patients may be directed for an immediate intraoperative biopsy and resection," Bousamra said in a news release.

Scientists stressed that findings were preliminary and had yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, though they hope their research can be further expanded upon in the future. They believe the research indicates a strong correlation between the organic compounds detected and the presence of tumors on the lungs. According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer primarily occurs in older adults, with two out of three diagnoses being individuals over the age of 65.

For those looking to engage in a healthy lifestyle for seniors, it is important to have regular check-ups with a physician. While these findings present a new option for potentially diagnosing lung cancer, they have not yet been widely accepted by the medical community.