Doctors at the University of Maryland are working on a test to help diagnose lung cancer in its earliest stages.
For patients, this test would be easy.
All they would have to do is cough up some phlegm.
It is believed genetic changes in the phlegm could be a sign of lung cancer.
In a preliminary study: the test identified 76% of stage-one lung cancers in patients whose phlegm showed certain genetic changes.
Right now the test is based on changes involving two genes.
Doctors hope to improve the accuracy by looking for changes involving up to eight genes.
If the test proves successful they believe it could be used in combination with x-ray and CT scans to determine how best to treat patients with suspicious spots on their lungs.
Dr. Richard Battafarno from the University of Maryland Medical Center stated, "All three of those taken together are much more likely to identify the patients who have early cancers so we can recommend excision and treatment, and spare the patients who don't have cancers from unnecessary biopsies or any unnecessary surgery."
There is no time frame for how long it could take to improve the test. It could be years.