Collecting samples of exhaled breath from people at a high risk of lung cancer could be a cheap and non-invasive method of diagnosing the disease, according to new research.
The findings will be presented today at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) Annual Congress in Barcelona.
Current tests for lung cancer include blood and urine tests, followed by CT scans and chest radiographs. This new method could see people at a high risk of lung cancer receiving an initial breath test to quickly assess their symptoms.
Previous research has shown that animals are capable of detecting diseases based on breath tests. Scientists have been trying to replicate this in ‘electronic nose’ technology, which works by detecting different profiles of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in breath samples. This is the most extensive study using the electronic nose to show that the technique could be an accurate method for lung cancer screening.
Researchers have not yet clearly identified which VOCs are linked to different diseases, but this new study suggests it is possible for an electronic nose to differentiate lung cancer from different lung conditions and healthy people.
Researchers from the University of Latvia collected exhaled breath samples from 252 lung cancer patients, 223 patients with different lung diseases and healthy volunteers and 265 non-smokers and 210 smokers.
The researchers found that in non-smokers, the electronic nose correctly identified 128 as having lung cancer and only misdiagnosed 5 people who didn’t have cancer. In the group of smokers, the electronic nose correctly identified 114 people as having lung cancer and misdiagnosing 5 people with lung cancer.
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