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Breathalyzer test could soon sniff out lung cancer like a dog


Dogs will always be looked upon lovingly as man’s best friend. They comfort us when we are sad, gaze excitedly every time we nibble a morsel of food, wag their tails whenever they see us come through the door, and provide years of unconditional love and affection; never asking for more than a scratch behind the ears and a pat on the head.

What you may not know is that, while Lassie is great at saving Timmy from meeting his doom down a well, research has found that our canine companions are able to save our lives in other ways too.

Thanks to their keen noses, trained dogs are able to identify breath samples from patients with lung cancer with 98 percent accuracy. Taking inspiration from our four-legged friends, a California-based company called Metabolomx has completed a clinical trial that utilizes a breathalyzer to test for lung cancer – similar to what how a dog would — with 83 percent accuracy.

Various methods

One of the ways in which doctors test for lung cancer, which causes more deaths worldwide than any other form of cancer, is by using computed tomography, or CT scans. CT scans are particularly useful in dealing with cancerous cells because they can also be used to see if cancer has spread into the chest from another area of the body.

Another method physicians can employ to diagnose cancerous cells is performing a biopsy. While there are many different types of biopsy procedures, generally when cancer is suspected, physicians will remove a sample of cells or tissue from a patient and examine them to determine what course to take next.

A high price for health

Like most tests, accuracy can vary and provide false positives. This often leads to patients undergoing invasive procedures such as biopsies, or exposure to harmful radiation via imaging. And there is also the cost to consider as well, since both tests are relatively expensive. For example, a CT scan, depending on where you live, can range anywhere between $678 and $3,016.

Medical tech for the masses

With the research being carried out by Metabolomx, doctors could provide a safer, noninvasive, and cost effective way to offer screenings. Metabolomx machine seems to be just that.

It works by using a proprietary colorimetric sensor array of reactants that change color depending on the compound it comes into contact with. Patients are simply required to breathe into the machine for five minutes, which then removes both moisture and bacteria, allowing the reactants to detect for potentially harmful compounds. What’s more, according to Metabolomx’s 50 blind trials, the patterns produced were able to accurately identify 10 distinct bacteria 98.8 percent of the time. Not only is that accurate, it’s also relatively inexpensive costing about $75 to administer. Trials suggest that the device can not only tell that lung cancer is present, but what type of cancer it is.

It’s no secret that the cost of healthcare in the United States has increased over the years. With a growing number of Americans without healthcare, it’s a promising sight to see new technology emerging within the medical realm that aims to not only help people medically but is also cost effective in the process.

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