Lung cancer diagnosis: Is earlier detection possible with breath test?

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Lung cancer diagnosis: Is earlier detection possible with breath test?

Question

I heard recently that doctors may be able to detect lung cancer by sniffing your breath. Is this for real?

Donna
Virginia

Answer

Several researchers are studying the use of a so-called "sniff test" or "breath test" to detect lung cancer at an earlier stage. These tests rely on certain volatile compounds made by tumor cells that can be detected in the breath. Research is ongoing to develop an electronic device to detect these chemicals. Other studies involve training dogs to detect these same chemicals. All of this work is highly experimental. At this time, it is unclear if any of these methods will ever be useful or practical in lung cancer diagnosis.

Last Updated: 09/22/2006
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