Simple Breath Test Can Monitor Lung Cancer Patients’ Recovery Process

Keeping track of lung cancer may be easier now thanks to a new method developed by experts. A simple breath test can now monitor the recovery process of lung cancer patients who have had surgery.

According to researchers, lung cancer patients who underwent surgery to remove their tumors have low carbonyl compounds in their breath when they exhale. These chemical markers are much higher in lung cancer patients who didn't undergo surgery, Live Science reported.

Chemical Markers

The study's findings, which were published on June 9 in the journal The Annals of Thoracic Surgery, can help scientists use the chemical markers as a screening method for lung cancer patients who underwent surgery. Dr. Victor van Berkel, the study's co-author and a thoracic surgeon at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky, said they didn't know why carbonyl compounds in lung cancer patients' breath were reduced after surgery.

It could be because the compounds were a product of the tumor that was removed. Another theory was that the body's inflammatory process linked with the tumor produced the carbonyl compounds, van Berkel told Live Science.

At the moment, a chest computed tomography (CT) scan is being used as a screening test for lung cancer patients. CT scan exposes patients to a small quantity of radiation and shows whether a person's lungs have nodules. If the scan reveals a nodule, follow-up examinations like biopsy will be done to determine whether the nodule is benign or malignant.

That grueling process isn't necessary for the breath test, which includes a balloon-like bag that can store a 1-liter (34 ounces) sample of air. The breath sample was then passed on a computer chip that analyzes and quantifies chemicals. The breath test could cost between $20 and $30 per test, though it still isn't approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration yet.

Cancer Screenings Are Highly Important

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among men and women, second to skin cancer or melanoma. In the U.S. alone, there are around 224,390 new cases of lung cancer and 158,080 deaths due to the disease this year, the American Cancer Society wrote.

The UK Lung Cancer Screening Trial, or UKLS, said conducting screening tests on people with high risks of developing lung cancer increases their survival rate by 73 percent. Thanks to the low-dose computed tomography, or LDCT, lung cancer mortality was decreased by 20 percent.

According to the Huron Daily Tribune, LDCT can produce high-resolution 3-D images of the lungs in just a matter of seconds. With this, doctors can intervene faster and prevent cancer from spreading any further in a patient's lungs.

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