Medical breakthrough: Diagnosing disease could be a breath away

New tests could detect cancer, liver disease, kidney failure, diabetes, asthma, and tuberculosis


ORLANDO, Fla. – Today, diagnosing disease means blood tests, body scans, and waiting weeks for results, but soon it may be as simple as just breathing in and breathing out.

[WEB EXTRA: Breath test study | breath test study 2 ]

A new kind of testing technology will detect cancer, heart disease and more, faster and cheaper than ever before.

Pat Patwardhan knew something was wrong with his health, but it took several weeks and many tests to figure out exactly what.

"They were not easy test. They poke me, prod me," said Patwardhan.

After it was determined that he was suffering from heart failure, Patwardhan was asked to participate in a new study to see if researchers could detect the condition in his breath.

"I just blow the balloon, they can analyze, and come back with the answers for you," said Patwardhan.

The machine is part of a new generation of diagnostic devices that promise to potentially sniff out all sorts of diseases, including cancer, liver disease, kidney failure, diabetes, asthma, and tuberculosis 

Because blood goes through the lungs, doctors say anything in the blood that is potentially volatile at body temperature can be detected in the breath.

Dr. Tarek Mekhail, a Florida Hospital thoracic oncologist has played a pivotal role in creating a computerized screening test that would detect lung cancer before it's too late.

"You breathe into a machine, the machine takes that exhaled gas into that card and that card would change colors and the computer analyzes these colors and would say this is the stamp of lung cancer that stamp... that is the picture of lung cancer," explained Mekhail.

During another preliminary study at the Cleveland Clinic, a breath test was able to detect severe heart failure with 100 percent accuracy.

And the best part, according to doctors, these tests are quick, not invasive and cheaper than traditional testing.

"It's really the future of medical testing in general. We are just scratching the surface on the utility of breath testing in medical diagnosis," said Dr. Norman Edelman of the American Lung Association.

While more research is needed before these tests become approved for everyday use, Edelman they're optimistic about the potential of this technology.

"We could screen many, many more people for lung cancer and probably save many, many more lives," said Edelman.

Because any chance at an early diagnosis-- could eventually mean a cure.

"If they could do that with a yearly physical as a preventative it would be amazing," said Mekhail.

Doctors say these testing machines are still large and cumbersome.

They'd like to make them the size of the Breathalyzer test so they could be used at home or in small clinics.

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