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8th January 2015

Take a deep breath … that was your diabetes screening

One of the ways medicine is reinventing itself is by making diagnostic techniques less… scary.

The mention of a colonoscopy, a biopsy, or even a blood test can be quite unnerving. And not just because we fear ‘why’ the doctor suggested it but the process itself is also pretty uncomfortable. If someone told me that I can get my lungs checked for cancer without standing in a machine, or giving vials of blood, or having a tube inserted in my body; instead all I have to do is take a deep breath and exhale. Well, I’d probably go for it right this minute.

“The new frontier and the future of medical testing”

A breath test can show a lot more than if you just had a sip too much of wine during a night out. Doctors already use it in the case of transplant patients to check if their body is accepting the donor organ, or to find out if we’re lactose or fructose intolerant. Today, they’re working on finding specific markers that could accurately tell if you have diabetes, lung or even colon cancer.

If it smells sweet …

In the case diabetes, doctors would be looking for the trace of acetone, a sweet smelling chemical that could indicate if we have type 1 diabetes. According to the NHS, over 850,000 people in the UK are living with diabetes undiagnosed. By providing a simple breath test that a GP could perform in a matter of minutes, management could start much earlier before life-threatening symptoms come up.

Skip the colonoscopy

Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer and one of the deadliest as it is notoriously diagnosed too late. There were initiatives before, such as the home stool testing to decrease the rate of those undiagnosed, but honestly, a breath test would be even more pleasing. Researchers found a specific compound in the breath of those with early stage colorectal cancer with 75% accuracy.

The scent of your lungs

Latvian researchers found a way to detect lung cancer that isn’t expensive, cumbersome or traumatic. Their research was based on the fact that the metabolism of people with lung cancer is different and this can be detected from the breath. It can go way beyond your lungs though.

Dr Raed Dweik, professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic believes it is “ the new frontier and the future of medical testing”.

Scientists have started working on developing an electronic nose (mimicked by the super sensitive nose of dogs) that could be able to sniff out Alzheimer’s, kidney disease, MS or even Parkinson’s.

“Almost any disease could be detected 40 years down the line,” Dweik told Mashable.

Sounds good to me.

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