Would you trust your diagnosis to a breath test? Scientists and doctors at a hospital in Bari, Italy, are betting that soon you'll be able to diagnose problems ranging from cancer to TB and even diabetes based on only a breath test. Comparing the breaths of patients with bowel cancer at this hospital, scientists received a 76% accuracy, according to the British Journal of Surgery. But can such a test really be depended on?
Breath Tests Dependent Upon Chemical Odors
The science of these breath tests is that a machine will be able to detect chemical odors of volatile chemicals that aren't supposed to be present in healthy people. In the case of bowel cancer, this departs from the current science, which depends upon a fecal test to diagnose bowel cancer.
The sample size compared was relatively small, and honestly too small to accurately determine whether this test wouldn't be completely debunked with a larger sample size. But researchers compared 27 patients with bowel cancer with 41 control patients who were declared healthy.
But even analytic chemistry researchers such as Dr. Claire Turner at the Open University are questioning the science. Pointing out potential flaws in the test, Dr. Turner stated these breath tests could be affected by food particles, air in the hospital or even other illnesses.
Are You Confident that Experimental Tools Could Accurately Predict Your Illnesses
If it were me, I'd be fearful to be an early guinea pig in this testing scenario. What if the test predicted you had cancer and after invasive rounds of medicine, chemotherapy, or surgical procedures, you realized your cancer was not actually a cancer, nor was it malignant. Given the increasing number of cases where patients' "cancer" was really something else, this could be a valid concern. To date, there's no foolproof method for determining that masses or other suspicious shadows on xrays are truly cancer. As science and medicine pushes the envelope, patients are usually the ones who are left to bear the brunt of progress.
Until the science is perfected, I certainly wouldn't rely on these kinds of findings. And I would hope that others would seek out multiple opinions following tests such as the breath test. But if you pursue treatment on a faulty diagnostic device and are injured, you can always call a skilled personal injury and medical malpractice attorney. You'll always have a clear advocate on your side when you call an attorney regarding your injuries.