Breath Test Breakthrough In Mesothelioma Battle

Scientists say they are close to developing a breath test that could extend workers’ life expectancy by detecting Mesothelioma, a deadly industrial disease, in its early stages.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer which is notoriously hard to diagnose because few symptoms show until it reaches an advanced stage. The illness can sometimes take 50 years or even longer to develop.

The cancer usually begins in the lungs and almost all cases are caused by asbestos, a potentially lethal mineral used in many industries from the 1930s until the 1970s.

Patients have the greatest chance of surviving longer if their mesothelioma is found quickly – but up to now there has been no reliable screening process to provide early detection.

Now scientists at Belgium’s Ghent University believe they may be able to identify the disease using a hi-tech breath analysis procedure which looks for particles known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

They discovered that people with mesothelioma breathed out different levels of VOCs when compared to healthy volunteers who took part in their research.

According to a summary in the Journal of Breath Research, the results are highly encouraging.

The test had a 76 per cent success rate in identifying between mesothelioma sufferers, an asbestos-exposed control group and healthy patients.

The breath analysis works by using a technique called multi-capillary column-ion mobility spectrometry (MCC-IMS). It is hoped that this new technology will help doctors diagnose the illness much earlier, enabling them to introduce treatments that could extend the patient’s life.

Anthony McCarthy, a personal injury lawyer at Macks Solicitors who specialises in asbestos-related cases, welcomed the results of the trials.

mesothelioma“Mesothelioma is an unforgiving and cruel disease which ruins people’s lives,” he said. “The fact it can lie dormant for so long is particularly hard.

“Over the years I have seen at first hand the devastating effect it can have not just on patients but on whole families.

“Although mesothelioma cannot be cured, early detection does make an enormous difference when it comes to the range of life-extending treatments that may be available.

“Let’s hope that these promising early results lead to the availability of a reliable test in the not too distant future.”

Those most at risk of diseases caused by asbestos include construction workers, steel industry workers, plumbers and electricians, although many others can also be affected.

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