If you've lost someone to cancer — or if you just freak out every time "cancer" shows up on the Internet as a possible cause of your headache — you probably have some painful awareness of the disease. Now, new research could lead to a less-terrifying process for lung cancer diagnosis: measuring the temperature of patients' breath.
Presented this week at the European Respiratory Society International Congress, the study involved 82 people who had been referred to receive a full diagnostic test after their x-ray screenings suggested signs of lung cancer. The researchers also used an X-Halo device to measure the temperature of the patients' exhaled breath. Of these participants, 40 were given a positive diagnosis while 42 were given a negative diagnosis. And, those diagnosed with lung cancer had significantly warmer breath than those who were in the clear.
This isn't the first time breath has played an important role in diagnosis. Previous studies show that the breath of lung cancer patients has a distinct smell — even dogs can pick it up. And, at last year's meeting of the European Respiratory Society, researchers from the University of Latvia presented research suggesting that an "electric nose" could diagnose cancer from collected samples of exhaled breath. But, none of this depended on temperature; rather, it was based on detecting volatile organic compounds present in the breath.
According to the CDC, lung cancer kills more Americans than any other type of cancer. And, we know that smoking's effects on the lungs can be particularly disastrous. So, while this study's findings need to be replicated and further examined before being put into practice, it's clear that developing a speedy and non-invasive diagnostic test for this type of cancer should be a priority. With quicker tests and less stress for patients, we'll all be able to breathe easier.