Thermometer can potentially detect lung cancer

Posted Sep 10, 2014 by Mike Rossi
Today, the only way doctors can definitively diagnose patients for lung cancer is by an invasive and uncomfortable biopsy.
A lung cancer cell.
A lung cancer cell.
Wellcome Images
But doctors in Italy are trying to change that by developing new ways to test for one of the deadliest forms of cancer — only 17% of all patients live longer than 5 years after diagnosis.
Researchers believe thermometers used to measure the temperature of patient breath can potentially be utilized to help diagnose lung cancer in the future.
Italian physician, Dr. Giovanna Carpagnano, announced her team's findings at the European Respiratory Society International Congress .
How the Experiment Worked
Researchers tested the breath temperature of just over 80 people — controlling for difference in sex, age and smoking habit — who'd been referred for a full lung biopsy based on preliminary chest x-ray screenings.
Factoring in various metrics, researchers set the threshold for 'cancer temperature' at 34°C — those with readings higher than the cutoff would be presumed to have cancer. Doctors then measured breath temperatures using a specially designed X-Halo thermometer.
Following the traditional biopsy examinations, doctors determined that 40 of the 82 total patients had lung cancer. Of the 40, 38 — approximately 96% — had breath temperatures higher than the 34°C cutoff.
The 42 cancer-free patients were kept in the experiment as control subjects.
What It All Means
For now? — Nothing.
Dr. Carpagnano admits no conclusions can be drawn at this stage. Everything is still speculative.
But the results thus far are, undeniably, exciting and researchers are hopeful this could eventually become part of the lung cancer screening process.
“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,” said Carpagnano.