It is well established that the earlier cancer is detected, the better the likelihood of a positive treatment outcome. Now chemical analysers traditionally used to detect explosives are being investigated as a way of detecting the chemical signatures associated with lung cancer. These 'cancer breathalyzers' are currently being tested in 17 British hospitals with the aim of having non-invasive testing in clinics from 2017.
"If you have a lung cancer inside your lung, that cancer is producing a range of chemicals in very, very minute amounts. And this device can collect those samples, those tiny amounts of volatile organic compounds, which we can then analyze in the laboratory. And in effect, it's a bit like a fingerprint. If you have a lung cancer we believe that we can detect these samples and that fingerprint will tell us whether the person has lung cancer or not," said Rintoul.