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Spit Test May Help Find Lung Cancers

A new test of that gunk you cough up from your lungs may help to tell which lumps found in a lung CT scan are cancerous. Medicare now covers a yearly low-dose CT scan each year for certain long-term, heavy smokers and former smokers. The scans help to find early lung cancers. But sometimes they also find lumps, or nodules, that are not cancers. The new test aims to find out which ones are cancerous, without a biopsy. The test looks for 3 types of genetic material, called microRNA, that are typically found in lung cancers. Researchers first tried the test on 122 people who had a lung nodule shown on a CT scan. The test examines sputum, a mixture of saliva and mucus. It identified 83% of the cancerous nodules. It was able to tell 88% of the time when the nodule was not cancer. Researchers also tried the test in 2 other groups of patients. Results were similar.

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