Detecting breast cancer in a single breath

August 12, 2014

Detecting breast cancer could soon be as simple as blowing. The breath of a woman with breast cancer contains different substances to that of a healthy woman. The American company Menssana Research has developed a breath-test to measure so-called volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath.

Scientists at Maastricht UMC+ and the Maastro Clinic on the Maastricht Health Campus tried out the breath-test on 244 women. They found that the test effectively distinguished their breath profiles from each other. In fact, the breath-test provides one hundred per cent certainty in screening for breast cancer.

Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in women, affecting one in eight. In the Netherlands, women between 50 and 75 years of age are invited to take a mammogram every two years. And every woman knows that this can be unpleasant and sometimes even painful. What's more, x-ray radiation is not exactly healthy. The breath-test is a promising alternative as it's safe and completely painless.