Symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain and a persistent cough can suggest an incredible range of potential illnesses. However, these symptoms, combined with a history of exposure to asbestos, could point doctors toward the possibility that the person has mesothelioma.
Whether doctors are looking to confirm or rule out an illness, they may have several options when it comes to testing. Making these tests as easy and painless as possible can be crucial, which is why the potential for a non-invasive breath test for mesothelioma is particularly exciting.
A new screening tool?
Because of the long latency period of mesothelioma and the fact that it can be quite an aggressive illness, early detection is challenging but vital. And researchers are experimenting with an easy method of screening for malignant pleural mesothelioma (MLM): a breath test.
Researchers suspect that patients with MLM may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in their breath. There have been multiple studies into this possible testing method. One study included 121 patients, seven of whom had confirmed mesothelioma; another test included 13 patients. The results were mixed, but researchers believe that they can optimize these tests with more studies.
Other testing options
If accurate and reliable, breath tests could make it much easier for doctors to screen patients without cutting into the skin or entering a person’s body. That said, there are several other methods doctors use to test for mesothelioma, including:
- CT scans
- PET scans
More testing options are undoubtedly beneficial to people who may or may not have mesothelioma. Every patient has different needs, pain tolerance levels and financial resources, all of which can affect the testing that doctors order.
Of course, more research is necessary to determine whether a breath test can effectively detect mesothelioma. In the meantime, patients can talk to their doctors about what might be the best tests for them to get an accurate diagnosis of a condition as soon as possible.