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Breath Test To Detect Lung Cancer: Read About The Latest Scientific Development

Lung cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the lungs, which are two spongy organs in your chest that take in oxygen as you breathe and release carbon dioxide as you exhale. Globally, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths.

It is estimated that lung cancer accounts for 5.9 per cent of all cancers and 8.1 per cent of all cancer-related deaths in India [1].

The risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time and number of cigarettes smoked, however lung cancer can also occur in people who have never smoked. The risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time you have smoked and the amount of cigarettes you have smoked. Even after smoking for many years, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing lung cancer if you quit smoking.

Currently, lung cancer is detected using CT scans for those at high risk, but this method is costly, requires special equipment, and is not without risk. It is more effective to detect lung cancer at an earlier stage when it is treatable [2].

Every day, experts are inching closer towards preventing the onset of lung cancer.

Experimental Breath Test To Detect Lung Cancer

Scientists at the University of Louisville have demonstrated that a newly developed lung cancer detection test can identify which VOCs are most likely to cause lung cancer in individuals [3]. Currently, lung cancer is detected using CT scans among those at high risk, but this method is expensive, requires specialized equipment, and may pose some risks.

Here are the important points from the study:

Point 1: Approximately three quarters of people who present with lung cancer [or 75 per cent] present with advanced stage disease, which accounts for the vast majority of patients dying from their disease [4].

Point 2: The researchers found that patients with lung cancer have a group of 7 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in their breath, which could assist in the detection of this disease without CT scanning. The volatile chemicals detected in the breath are not necessarily from the lung cancer tumour, as chemicals are brought to the lungs by the blood from all over the body [5].

Point 3: Any chemical released by a part of the body, including disease and tumours anywhere in the body, actually flows through the blood system. When they reach the lungs, they are exhaled. Ketones are a practical example of this, so the breath you get with diabetics is the same type of process that is released into the blood system and exhaled.

Point 4: It is therefore important to note that even though [lung cancer patients] can receive help and treatment, that treatment is often not sufficient to cure them, and only a quarter of patients with lung cancer are likely to receive treatment that might be effective. Thus, identifying lung cancer at an early stage is crucial to improving long-term outcomes.

Point 5: Due to the fact that there are many similar compounds emitted by different conditions, it is challenging to use VOCs to detect lung cancer. According to the researchers, VOCs released by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is common among smokers who are also more likely to develop lung cancer, are similar to those released by lung cancer.

On A Final Note...

CT scans are currently used to detect lung cancer and are offered to those at risk. Much research is being conducted to detect the disease early.

In addition to the GRAIL trial, which reported some of the findings of its effort to develop a blood test for detecting cancer and its location in the body, epigenetic tests, which can be performed on a cervical smear to determine if a person has ovarian, breast or cervical cancer.

Researchers hope that by detecting cancer earlier, lives can be saved and money can be saved since more treatment options will be available.

Read more about: lung cancer cancer treatment
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