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Nose Swab Could Help Diagnose Lung Cancer Among Smokers

Update Date: Feb 28, 2017 10:29 PM EST

Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) may have found a less invasive and tedious way of detecting malignant lung lesions by taking nasal swabs from patients.

The Daily Mail reported that detecting lung cancer in its early stages is quite difficult since there are no signs and symptoms at the early onset of the disease. When symptoms surface, they usually include a persistent cough, eventually coughing up blood, shortness of breath and malaise.

Patients suspected for having lung cancer are then requested to get x-rays and scans. While these procedures can locate lesions, they cannot identify if these lesions are benign or malignant.

People at risk of having lung cancer will then have to get a biopsy. Getting the tissue sample is both costly and invasive. To get a tissue sample, a patient will have to undergo a bronchoscopy where a tube is inserted either through the nose or the mouth, down the throat and into the lungs.

Majority of these at risk cases turns out to be benign. According to Medical News Today, 25 percent patients who have undergone computed tomography as part of the National Lung Cancer Screening trial had lung lesions, however approximately 95 percent of these cases were proven to be benign in the end.

BUSM researchers are now suggesting a new kind of biopsy to determine the presence of cancer. The authors of the study which was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests using nasal epithelial tissues as biomarkers for lung cancer.

Scientists studied nasal brushings of patients. They checked for genetic mutations and cancer related gene expressions using microarrays.The researchers found that the brushings from the nasal airways of people who smoked have been altered and could be a suitable biomarker for lung cancer.

BUSM medial professor and senior author of the study Dr. Marc Lenburg agree that apart from the non-invasive collection process establishing independent gene expressions independent of compromising clinical risk, collecting nasal samples has a potential for instrumentation and can be an effective measure in diagnosis and evaluation of lung lesions.

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