Early breast cancer may be detected through breath, urine tests

New utilization of breath and urine tests may be able to screen for early stage breast cancer — the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the world.

Breast cancer biomarkers were accurately detected in a new study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University by using two “nose gas” sensors on breath and gas-chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) — a method of testing substances found in urine.

“Breast cancer survival is strongly tied to the sensitivity of tumor detection,” co-author of the study, Yehuda Zeiri said in a release. “Accurate methods for detecting smaller, earlier tumors remains a priority (and) our new approach utilizing urine and exhaled breath samples, analyzed with inexpensive, commercially available processes, is non-invasive, accessible and may be easily implemented in a variety of settings.”

The research, published in the journal Computers in Biology and Medicine, found that the breath method was able to accurately detect the cancer cells more than 95% of the time with the electronic e-nose. The inexpensive device sensed the disease by picking up on a unique breath pattern in women.

Model and Property Released (MR&PR)

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women around the world.

(AJ_Watt/Getty Images)

Similarly, the urine test proved accurate 85% of the time.

The current primary method of screening for breast cancer — via a mammography — cannot always detect very small tumors in dense tissue, according to the study. The tests are typically 75% to 85% accurate but that number drops to 30% to 50% in fuller bodied women. And a dual-energy digital mammography — a more effective means of finding small tumors — is expensive and exposes patients to radiation. Invasive, difficult to pull off biopsies are the only other option.

“We’ve now shown that inexpensive, commercial electronic noses are sufficient for classifying cancer patients at early stages,” Zeiri said. “With further study, it may also be possible to analyze exhaled breath and urine samples to identify other cancer types, as well.”

health studies
women’s health

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