Breath Test May Speed Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Dutch researchers report that they might have developed a breath test that could be beneficial in diagnosing pleural mesothelioma.

University of Amsterdam Medical Center researchers state that they can use a device called the Cyranose 320 to differentiate between healthy people, people with mesothelioma, and people who have had long-term asbestos exposure but do now show signs of mesothelioma. This is accomplished by simply having the subject breathe into an “electronic nose”.

This new device could lead to significant changes in the mesothelioma diagnosis process. Findings from the study conducted in the Netherlands were published in the medical journal Lung Cancer.

At this time, the most common method for diagnosing mesothelioma is a test called a thorascopic biopsy, which requires an incision to be made in the chest so that a thin tube can be inserted to obtain a tissue sample. Unfortunately, this procedure carries a number of risks, particularly for elderly patients, such as:

  • Collapsed lung
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Embolism
  • Subcutaneous emphysema and hemoptysis

Mesothelioma has a long latency period and often appears decades after asbestos exposure, so many of the patients diagnosed with mesothelioma are elderly.

The machine used in the study sorts through volatile organic compounds in a breathpoint taken from the subject’s breath. The breathpoint can then be analyzed to determine whether the patient has mesothelioma.

In the study, researchers examined 13 patients with a confirmed mesothelioma diagnosis, 13 healthy patients, and 13 people who had long-term asbestos exposure but no mesothelioma. The device was 80% accurate in differentiating between patients with mesothelioma and those who didn’t have the disease but were exposed to asbestos for a prolonged period of time. The machine was 85% accurate in separating patients with mesothelioma from those who were healthy.

According to researchers, this device could reduce the risk of mesothelioma diagnosis complications for the elderly, providing a non-invasive, safe, and effective means for diagnosing mesothelioma.

The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Because the disease has a very long latency period and is often not diagnosed until it is at an advanced stage, there is a limited life expectancy for mesothelioma patients.

Asbestos exposure can also lead to other potentially fatal diseases such as asbestosis and lung cancer. Asbestos litigation is the longest running mass tort in U.S. history, with the first case dating back to 1929. More than 600,000 people have filed mesothelioma lawsuits against over 6,000 defendants after being diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease.


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