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Mesothelioma has plagued our nation for decades, yet it only recently seems to be getting the kind of attention it deserves.
It is an odd form of cancer unlike lung, breast or prostate cancer. With mesothelioma, it can take only a little exposure to asbestos, whether at work in a shipyard, in an old factory or even in the insulation of a person’s own house, to cause the illness.
But mesothelioma is different because the victim likely won’t know they are affected for years or even decades after the fact. It isn’t until they feel the typical symptoms, such as chest pain, trouble breathing or heavy coughing, that they get checked out by a doctor. And it can take several doctor visits before the diagnosis is given. Typical survival time after diagnosis is only about 12 months.
But there is hope.
As the Zimbabwe Guardian is reporting, researchers in the Netherlands are looking in to whether it’s possible to detect mesothelioma from a breath testing machine. Others have also published research into early detection devices for this terrible disease.
Based on scientific articles written on the topic, the article reports that it’s possible a new technology — electronic nose — could be the least invasive way to detect mesothelioma. Because it typically isn’t diagnosed until decades after exposure to asbestos the elderly are often at risk. And because of their frail state, exploratory surgery often isn’t an option.
Doctors in Amsterdam have been experimenting with a device called the Cyranose 320, which they hope will be able to tell the difference between a person who is healthy, one who has mesothelioma and one who has been exposed to asbestos, but who hasn’t been diagnosed with mesothelioma.
The device is handheld and has a 32-sensor chip inside. It can be used to recognize many molecules with scent; there are more than 3,000 organic compounds in a single exhaled breath.
The study used 13 people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and another 13 people who were exposed to asbestos, but who haven’t been diagnosed, the article states. Another 13 people who were healthy were considered the control group.
The article reports that the device distinguished the mesothelioma patients from those who have been exposed to asbestos with ease. Mesothelioma patients were also distinguished from the control group of healthy people as well. Several measurements and tests repeated results.
This is encouraging news as it means there may be a quicker, easier way for people to determine if they have mesothelioma. Rather than going from primary care physician to lung or breathing specialists, wasting months of wondering what could be the problem, it’s possible that a simple breath test and analysis could hold the key to diagnosis. The quicker a person is diagnosed, the longer they may have to live and that’s something everyone wants.
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