Breathe Analysis: Detecting Cancer at Its Earliest Satges

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Cancer cases are on a steep ascent. World Health Organization (WHO) has attributed cancer as being culpable for almost one in six deaths globally. In the report of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) by WHO it is estimated that in two decades, 22 million people will be diagnosed annually worldwide. Owing to these statistics, it is imperative to devise a plan which focuses to treat cancer in its initial stages.

This is achievable if cancer is diagnosed at its earliest by screening high risk patients.

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Lung cancer is ranked number one for mortality, followed by colon and breast cancer as the second and third leading causes respectively. Various techniques including blood test, X-ray, mammography, colonoscopy, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and ultrasonography are employed for diagnosis and prognosis of the disease. However, the final determination of cancer is made by biopsy from the specific tissue. Nonetheless, biopsy being an invasive procedure carries a risk of bleeding which in turn can precipitate mortality. In instances of the diseased areas being patchy, it is also possible to overlook small lesions. Therefore, with preferment in medical science, a novel approach has unfolded which is based on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in breath.

Breath analysis includes gaseous phase analysis that measures VOCs using electronic noses, exhaled nitric oxide, and exhaled breath condensate (EBC). Metabolic illnesses alter the body’s chemistry either by changing the VOCs concentration or by producing new VOCs that have a high vapor pressure under ordinary room-temperature conditions. As a consequence these newly produced VOCs emerge from the diseased cell or tissue area and are identified in exhaled air. Although breath samples of a healthy population contains approximately 3000 variable VOCs, their spectrum varies amongst different individuals, and only few of them share a common health condition in a given population. Once identified VOCs are correlated to a specific biochemical origin and distinct pathophysiological causes. Interestingly, VOCs are sub-classified as endogenous which constitute the majority, while some are exogenous VOCs that reveal exposure of an individual to carcinogens.

The emergence of these breath analyzers has paved way for a rapid, non-invasive and economically feasible method to detect cancer early in its course. Compared to the practice of blood sampling, VOCs are quickly released into the air, increasing the probability of their loss while at the same time causing contamination from VOCs in the air. Moreover, measuring VOCs in gaseous samples is convenient because other compounds do not interfere. Furthermore, breath analyzers are also permitted and safe to use during sleep and for the purpose of continuous sampling as compared to blood tests. The concentration and types of VOCs being synthesized can be used to follow the response to treatment in cases where treatment modalities need to be altered and to determine a fairly justifiable prognosis. Therefore, this rapid method establishes a profound basis to diagnose cancer and begin early treatment. Treatment on the correct time will eventually reduce the financial costs as well as the emotional burden which comes as an additional debt for warriors against cancer.

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