Breath test could detect cancer

October 31, 2012

Each one says a lot about you, and not just if you need a mint. This explains how our breath could revolutionize disease diagnosis.

Failing a particular breath test could mean jail. Failing this one could mean cancer.

Doctors at Cleveland Clinic are working on a breath test that can detect liver, kidney, and heart disease.

"The way I look at breath testing, it's the new frontier of medical testing," Raed A. Dwelk, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Director of the Pulmonary Vascular Program at the Cleveland Clinic told Ivanhoe.

That's because a lot of things, good or bad, make their way from your tissues to your blood and go through your lungs.

"Our breath works kind of like an exhaust system for the body. Depending on how the different body parts are working, the chemicals in the breath might be different," Peter Mazzone, M.D., a Lung Specialist at the Cleveland Clinic said.

Hi-tech sensors can detect differences up to a part per billion in a person's chemistry.

"To give you a concept, if you have baseball field filled with white ping pong balls, and only one red one. That's a part per billion. That's how sensitive these devices are," Dr. Dwelk said.

Studies show the breath test to be 80% accurate in not only detecting lung cancer, but also the type, the stage, and how aggressive the cancer is.

Doctors hope the breath test will one day detect all types of cancer.

"That's the holy grail of breath testing," Dr. Dwelk said.

Proving medicine's next big thing could be just a breath away.

Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic hope to have this in general practitioners' offices within five years. Soon after, they hope to develop a test that would work through your smart phone.

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