According to scientists in Belgium, a new breath test may hold the key to helping detect mesothelioma early. Currently, it is difficult to nearly impossible to discover mesothelioma, a form of cancer that develops from asbestos exposure, in its early malignant stages.
Why Is It Difficult to Catch Mesothelioma Early?
As with most cancers, the best chances of surviving mesothelioma come when it is caught early. However, mesothelioma symptoms often do not surface until decades after asbestos exposure. In addition, its symptoms, which include a cough, fever, fatigue, shortness of breath and unplanned weight loss, can be confused with other diseases. In many cases, mesothelioma diagnosis requires a biopsy and the confirmation of a pathology report before it’s discovered. Unfortunately, by the time mesothelioma is discovered, it is often already in its late stages, which can greatly lower sufferers’ chances of survival.
How Does This New Breath Test Detect Mesothelioma Early?
The mesothelioma breath test was developed at Ghent University in Belgium. During development, researchers had both healthy subjects and malignant mesothelioma patients take the test. The mesothelioma breath screening process involves the use of multi-capillary column-ion mobility spectrometry (MCC-IMS). This technology enabled researchers to measure volatile organic compounds (VOC). VOC are compounds, such as sulfur, nitrogen, chlorine, oxygen and hydrogen, that become gaseous at room temperature. When subjects take the breath test, the MCC-IMS measures the level of VOC in their breath as they exhale. Generally, healthy people and those with mesothelioma have different levels of VOC in their breath.
The results of the Belgian scientists’ research was published in the Journal of Breath Research. According to the research, the breath test was able to correctly tell the difference between mesothelioma patients and healthy people or asbestos-exposed people 76 percent of the time. In addition, the study showed that the test was 87 percent accurate when telling the difference between asbestos-exposed people and mesothelioma patients.
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