Spanish researchers have recently uncovered a new, cost effective way to spot lung cancer and colorectal cancer quickly and unintrusively. It is done by using the same breath tests that you may be familiar with.
The oral cavity is a reflection of the state of your entire body, and thus it should be no surprise that by analyzing what comes out of it is also indicative of the entire body. The breath you exhale is analyzed using a special filter called an electronic nose. This filtration system picks up on VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds, which are indicative of cancer growing in the body. More about those later.
The study I have read about sampled a large amount of people, located in many different countries, with Latvia and Spain playing the major roles. In the study testing the electronic nose, 256 lung cancer patients as well as 223 patients with different lung diseases were analyzed. The findings were then used to screen 265 non-smokers, and 210 smokers who were at risk of having lung cancer. In 114 smokers and 128 non-smokers, lung cancer was correctly diagnosed using the breath test alone, and only 10 cases of error were reported. That is a very impressive statistical error margin, and is well in the acceptable range.
VOCs are organic compounds that have a very high vapor pressure at normal temperatures. Anything that evaporates when coming into contact with air is a VOC. The human body generates plenty of these, like methane, for example. Cancer cells also generate VOCs that can be picked up, and thus located, and this is what the electronic nose exploits in order to diagnose. While scary to think about, it is good to be diagnosed early, as one can make all of the last rites and wishes that one wants to his or her loved ones, and handle business that still needs to be handled in this life. Sadly, this technology will not be the road towards a cure for cancer.
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