Skip to content

    Lung Cancer Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Electronic Nose May Sniff Out Lung Cancer

    New Test May Detect Lung Cancer in Breath

    WebMD Health News

    June 1, 2005 -- Detecting lung cancer soon may be as easy as taking a breath.

    A new study shows that an experimental "electronic nose" can detect lung cancer in the exhaled breath of people with the disease.

    Researchers say the device detects unique "smellprints" found in the exhaled breath of people with lung cancer and may one day be used to conduct widespread screening for the deadly disease.

    Lung cancer is the top cancer killer for both men and women in the U.S. According to the American Cancer Society, more people die of lung cancer than colon, breast, and prostate cancer combined.

    Early detection and treatment is critical to preventing or delaying death due to the disease. However, there are no general screening guidelines to detect lung cancer at its earliest stages in asymptomatic people. When lung cancer is found early, it is often because of tests that were being done for something else.

    New Way to Detect Lung Cancer

    "Based on prior work, we hypothesized that an 'electronic nose' would detect lung cancer on the basis of complex 'smellprints' of numerous volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath from individuals with lung cancer," says researcher Serpil C. Erzurum, MD, of The Cleveland Clinic, in a news release.

    "Like the human nose, its electronic counterpart responds in concert to a given odor to generate a pattern or 'smellprint,' which is analyzed, compared with stored patterns and recognized," says Erzurum.

    In the study, which appears in the June issue of the American Journal of Respiratory Care and Critical Care Medicine, researchers measured the exhaled breath of 14 people with lung cancer and 45 healthy individuals to develop the electronic nose's screening capability.

    Then they tested the device's ability to detect lung cancer in another group of 14 people with lung cancer and 62 people without the disease.

    Of the 14 lung cancer patients, 10 had a positive breath test and four had a negative result. Among the noncancer patients, 57 had a negative lung cancer breath test and five had a positive.

    Researchers say that in this group of people with a rate of lung cancer of 18%, the test was 92% accurate in confirming those people that did not have lung cancer and 66% accurate in detecting those with lung cancer.

    They say these results prove the feasibility of such an "electronic nose" test for lung cancer, but further research is needed to refine and develop effective strategies for using such a test.

    Today on WebMD

    Xray analysis
    Do you know the myths from the facts?
    chest x-ray
    Get to know them.
     
    woman taking pills
    Tips to managing them.
    Lung cancer xray
    See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
     
    Lung Cancer Risks Myths and Facts
    SLIDESHOW
    Woman getting ct scan
    Article
     
    Improving Lung Cancer Survival Targeted Therapy
    VIDEO
    cancer fighting foods
    Article
     
    Lung Cancer Surprising Differences Between Sexes
    VIDEO
    Pets Improve Your Health
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Vitamin D
    SLIDESHOW
    Lung Cancer Surgery Options
    VIDEO