Now researchers believe they have discovered a new diagnostic tool that will help doctors discover this deadly cancer much earlier and making it more treatable.
Researchers from Tecnalia and the Instituto de Tecnologias Quimicas Emergentes de La Rioja are in the development phase of a new biosensor capable of sensing cancer through exhaled breath.
Researchers have done preliminary testing on individuals who were known to have lung cancers as well as some who were diagnosed previously to testing with head and neck cancers. As the patients exhaled, the breath was collected in the device. A gas mass spectrometer was used to analyze the organic compounds from each patient that had been captured in the device.
Researchers discovered it is not one single element, but a combination of elements detected that can indicate cancer. Some of the compounds found in cancer sufferers included acetone, methanol, butanol and hydrocarbons.
The research study included 80 patients. Of those, 36 were healthy, 22 had head or neck cancers and 24 had lung cancer.
It’s not clear how long it will take to develop the breath testing, but it is an encouraging path.
Lead researcher, Professor Hossam Haick, said, “There's an urgent need to develop new ways to detect head-and-neck cancer because diagnosis of the disease is complicated, requiring specialist examinations.”