Blood, saliva and even breath may one day be able to diagnose lung cancer, which is the number 1 cancer killer in the U.S. A primary reason why is that lung cancer is often detected at later stages than some other cancers. Lung cancer currently does not have a widespread and easy to implement screening test available compared with other cancers - think of the annual or biannual mammogram for breast cancer, routine pap smear for cervical cancer or colonoscopies for colon cancer.
New research is currently looking into developing an early screening method for lung cancer. Researchers are investigating whether body fluids other than blood may provide insight into diagnosing lung cancer at an earlier stage. The salivary diagnostics lab at UCLA School of Dentistry are analyzing molecules in saliva, including DNA, RNA, proteins, metabolites and microbiota to determine whether these elements hold clues as to the individual's cancer status. Unlike the current lung biopsy, salivary diagnostics are a non-invasive, easy to use tool for patient specimen collection as well. Although more research is needed, these advances in the early diagnosis of lung cancer appear to be very promising.