Breath Temperature: Can We Tell if You Have Lung Cancer?

What You Need to Know: The temperature of exhaled breath could be used to diagnose lung cancer. Results of a recent study demonstrate that patients with lung cancer have a higher breath temperature than those without. The temperature also increases with the number of years a person had smoked and the stage of their lung cancer.

Background: Many research teams have been looking at the possibility of using breath tests for a number of cancers. This is the first study looking at breath temperature as a marker in lung cancer.

The Study: The research, presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress in Munich, suggests that testing the temperature of breath could be a simple and noninvasive method to either confirm or reject the presence of lung cancer. The researchers enrolled 82 people in the study who had been referred for a full diagnostic test after an x-ray suggested the presence of lung cancer. 40 patients received a positive diagnosis, while 42 patients had the diagnosis rejected. Researchers measured the temperature of exhaled breath in all patients using a breath thermometer device, known as an X-Halo device.

Results: Patients with lung cancer had a higher breath temperature than those without. Breath temperature also increased with the number of years a person had smoked and the stage at which their lung cancer had developed. The researchers also identified a cut-off value in the measurement of temperature, which they proved could identify lung cancer with a high level of accuracy.

Professor Giovanna Elisiana Carpagnano, lead author of the study from the University of Foggia, Italy, said: “Our results suggest that lung cancer causes an increase in the exhaled temperature. This is a significant finding and could change the way we currently diagnose the disease. If we are able to refine a test to diagnose lung cancer by measuring breath temperature, we will improve the diagnostic process by providing patients with a stress-free and simple test that is also cheaper and less intensive for clinicians.”

My Take: Exciting. But not ready for general use. So: 1) Don’t smoke; 2) If you smoke, quit; 3) if you have a 30 pack-year history of cigarette use (fro example, 1 pack per day for 30 years, or 2 packs per day for 15), ask your healthcare provider whether you may be a candidate for a low-dose screening CT scan. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: European Lung Foundation. “Breath temperature test could identify lung cancer.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 September 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140908083738.htm>.

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