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Medicine Technology

Sniffing Out Cancer With Electronic Noses 22

An anonymous reader writes "We may soon be able to obtain easy and early diagnoses of diseases by smell. This week researchers found one odor-sniffing machine was as good as a mammogram at detecting breast cancer — and many other devices capable of spotting other diseases may be on the way."
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Sniffing Out Cancer With Electronic Noses

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    So, not good at all?


    • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Monday March 10, 2014 @10:06AM (#46445023)

      The issue with mammograms is inappropriate mass screening; they're still a useful diagnostic tool, and have a benefit in routine screening in high-risk populations. If this device has the same false positive/negative rate as mammograms but is less intrusive and doesn't involve X-ray, that'd improve the benefits for those groups even futher.

      Now, there is a related issue that any more-convenient diagnostic tool runs an even higher risk of being overapplied.

  • Early Detection (Score:5, Informative)

    by johnnyb ( 4816 ) <jonathan@bartlettpublishing.com> on Monday March 10, 2014 @10:24AM (#46445141) Homepage

    The problem with early detection is that many diseases are actually benign in their early stages, and, when detected, their detection can actually cause more harm for the patient. For instance, early cancer detection increases the likelihood that the patient will start chemo. Some cancers wind up being handled by the body, but *all* chemo treatments harm patients. So, early detection sometimes leads to more harm than benefit (plus an unfortunate issue with "success" rates - the cancer treatments get to include in their "success" count cancers that the body would have cleaned up anyway).

    • Re:Early Detection (Score:4, Interesting)

      by somepunk ( 720296 ) on Monday March 10, 2014 @10:44AM (#46445345) Homepage

      Some treatment, maybe, possibly harmful, but not chemotherapy. That stuff is saved for the real hard cases, not dubious initial diagnoses. There's a lot of ambiguity and overreaction in medicine, but I don't think much of it is here.

      • Depends on doctor and hospital - they're putting people in their 30s with small superficial melanomas through chemo around here, not that I'm saying it's unwarranted, but maybe somewhere else they're even more aggressive...

  • Mammogram machine manufacturers will raise a stink at these news.

  • ... a mammogram.

    A low bar.

    • Not as good as a mammogram in from some points of view - the mammo can cause the disease it detects, thereby feeding the system additional cases to treat. Quote from a newly minted M.D. "whether or not the test causes the disease is irrelevant, we can treat it, so we're saving those who would have gone untreated and not harming those in whom we are causing the disease." assuming they continue to come back for future testing...

      I guess the Hippocratic oath has gone out of fashion.

  • Let's be honest: we men want a sensor that will detect how badly a woman needs sex.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern