Pennsylvania residents who have worked with asbestos may be vulnerable to a particularly dangerous form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma forms in the lining of the lung, and almost all cases are linked to asbestos exposure. The cancer may come to light years or decades after the initial exposure, but it often progresses quickly, and people may not know that they are affected until the disease has progressed considerably. One technique called exhaled breath analysis could make it easier to identify mesothelioma earlier on, potentially providing more opportunities for treatment.

Researchers examined exhaled breath analysis to determine how well it works in identifying pleural mesothelioma and other diseases caused by asbestos exposure. Currently, mesothelioma is most commonly diagnosed through a biopsy, in which tumor cells are extracted from the body and examined under a microscope. Exhaled breath analysis, on the other hand, is non-invasive, and this may encourage more patients to take the test. It measures volatile organic compounds, which are produced by changes in the body that take place when a person develops cancer. The compounds produced by different types of cancer vary, and this test measures each type to determine which, if any, type of cancer the patient is likely to have.

In some cases, compounds related to pleural mesothelioma were accurately detected by the test, often more accurately than other more invasive options. The test is usually carried out using an “e-nose” that detects key compounds on a patient’s breath, with a distinctive “breathprint” for each disease.

The technology was able to distinguish between patients with mesothelioma and other diseases caused by asbestos exposure. A lawyer may help people with mesothelioma seek compensation for the damages they have suffered due to workplace toxic exposure.