New Breath-Test for Colon Cancer Brings Positive Results

December 21, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. diagnose (v.) [dahy-uh g-nohs, -nohz, dahy-uh g-nohs, -nohz] – to identify a disease or condition through medical tests
Example: The patient undergoes medical tests so his condition can be diagnosed.

2. false positive (n.) [fawls poz-i-tiv] –(in medicine) a medical test result that shows a disease is present when it is actually not
Example: Doctors repeated the test to avoid getting a false positive result.

3. invasive (adj.) [in-vey-siv] – (in medicine) requiring the insertion of medical instruments into the body
Example: Surgery is an invasive medical procedure. 

4. exhaled (adj.) [eks-heyl, ek-seyl] – relating to gas released from the body through breathing
Example: Some diseases can be acquired from exhaled air. 

5. follow-up (n.) [fol-oh-uhp] – an action done to continue a previous activity
Example The doctor asked the patient to return after three days for a follow-up examination.

Read the text below.

Scientists have recently developed a breath test that can diagnose the presence of colon cancer in a person.

The current diagnostic test for colon cancer involves checking for blood in the feces, but the test is not very reliable since many patients produce false positive results. People incorrectly diagnosed are later forced to have more invasive and unnecessary tests.

The new test, on the other hand, simply uses an electronic device to analyze chemicals from exhaled breaths. The device checks for certain chemicals in the breath related to cancer tumor activity and for chemicals not found in a healthy person.

The device was tested by a team from a hospital in Bari, Italy. The researchers tested breaths of 37 colon cancer patients and the breaths of 41 healthy patients.

At first, the device correctly diagnosed patients 85% of the time. But after a follow-up test, the overall accuracy fell down to 76%. Nonetheless, scientists are confident about the potential of the breath test.

Cancer in its early stages is not easy to identify, but cancer has a high chance of being stopped if diagnosed early. The breath test could help screen people who do not seem sick.

However, the breath test will not be available to the public soon, as scientists must test the device on a larger group of people.

The colon cancer breath test is only one of many breath tests being designed to check for diseases such as other types of cancer, tuberculosis and diabetes.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Do you think people would trust a simple breath test when being diagnosed or would they want more invasive tests? Please explain your answer.
·         Why is it important to do more research on new medical technology before introducing it to the public?

Discussion B

·         Why do you think easier and more comfortable diagnostic tests are being developed?
·         Would less stressful diagnostic tests encourage people to go to the doctor more often for check-ups? Why or why not?


December 21, 2012