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Breath test may show lung cancer

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A new breath test which can spot lung cancer while it’s still in the early stages may be on the market soon. A joint project between the Davidoff Cancer Center in Israel and the University of Colorado Cancer Center, reports philly.com on Monday, June 2, was announced at the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting held in Chicago. This new test the two centers have in development’ could revolutionize the discovery and diagnosing of lung cancer.

Imagine a diagnostic test that is easy, inexpensive, and totally pain free. It could become part of a routine checkup. It could even predict whether the cancer if finds is early stage or dangerously advanced.

The test, which still has some imperfections, uses the fact that cancer cells have a “different and unique smell” which can already be discerned by trained dogs. The researchers in this project want to carry that knowledge further, using a device that can be plugged right into the USB port on a computer, for an instant readout.

So far, the instrument is only accurate to about 80%, but it already does a good job of picking out potential problems --- and selecting those who should sign up for an X-ray right away. The more advanced the cancer, the stronger the scent given off.

Lung cancer is a devious disease. It frequently is not discovered until too late for a cure, so having a test available that could be used to screen masses of people could save many lives. Right now, lung cancer is the top cancer killer in the United States.

The recent study involved 358 people in the U.S. and Israel. Plans are to bring the device on the market as a screening tool within the next few years. It could save millions of lives, but so far Medicare’s policy makers have advised against paying for the test – inexpensive though it will likely be. They need more validation of the findings.

But researchers say, reports Science Daily, that the test may not only prove to be an essential diagnostic tool, it may eventually assess how well a patient is responding to treatment. That knowledge could save even more lives.

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