A Simple Breathalyzer May Be The Next Lung Cancer Screening Tool

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Last week, clinicians descended on Munich to attend the annual European Respiratory Society’s International Congress. During the event, a group of researchers from the University of Foggia, Italy presented findings from a small study that left many hoping that a cheap, non-invasive lung cancer screening test may finally be just around the corner.

The presentation focused on a group of 82 patients that had been referred for an x-ray to investigate possible lung cancer. X-ray results established that of the 82 patients, 40 had confirmed lung cancer, and 42 did not. Next, researchers analyzed breath temperature across both groups and found that the patients with lung cancer exhale measurably warmer breath. The researchers were able to analyze the variations in breath temperature between the two groups and identify an accurate cutoff threshold that would reliably identify lung cancer in a patient. Researchers also noted that breath temperature increased at consistent and predictable levels depending on what stage lung cancer was in. Additionally, increases in breath temperature were associated with the number of years a person had been a smoker.

“Our results suggest that lung cancer causes an increase in the exhaled temperature. This is a significant finding and could change the way we currently diagnose the disease. If we are able to refine a test to diagnose lung cancer by measuring breath temperature, we will improve the diagnostic process by providing patients with a stress-free and simple test that is also cheaper and less expensive for clinicians.” – Giovanna Elisiana Carpagnano, lead author of the study and professor from the University of Foggia.

Sensitivity and specificity have not been measured for the approach to lung cancer screening, and researchers are the first to acknowledge that a great deal more work needs to take place before a clinically valuable tool might be ready for mainstream use, but the idea of a cheap, widely available, and truly non-invasive lung cancer screening test generated excitement nonetheless.


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