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Early Disease Detection Tests

February 22, 2017 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

There’s a brand-new electronic “nose”—a diagnostic machine that measures chemicals, associated with various illnesses, in your breath. And, although it isn’t approved for clinical use yet, this little device should prove to be a boon for diagnosis, helping us spot a plethora of diseases long before we even start to suffer symptoms.

So, until this high-powered “disease sniffer” makes its way into every doctor’s office, here are a few “minor” symptoms that you should pay more attention to than you think.

The “Na-Nose” That Can Sniff Out 17 Types Of Trouble

Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have just unveiled a new type of breathalyzer that doesn’t look for alcohol, but for disease.

It’s astonishingly wide-ranging. The Na-Nose, as they’ve named it, can find telltale markers of everything from Crohn’s disease to cancer, from Parkinson’s to multiple sclerosis.

And it can do it much earlier than current technology, which we tend to use only once you already have symptoms.

This is monumentally important. And not just because it will make it easier and cheaper to diagnose disease.

It’s going to change the way we treat disease, and save lives as well.

That’s because most illness is present in your body long before you notice any symptoms. Cancer, for instance, can gestate for ten years before it’s large enough to present as a lump or bump.

And, as you already know, the sooner you can attack a disease, the better your chances of survival.

I’ve got countless examples from my practice. One particularly tragic case came from a breast cancer survivor. Even though she’d just recovered from treatment—including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy—her doctors poo-pooed a lump on her pancreas as a simple cyst.

I wasn’t so sure. And an oncoblot—which I’ll explain in a moment—revealed that she actually had Stage IV pancreatic cancer.

Even in cases where medical professionals should be extremely vigilant, diseases are often allowed to fester until it’s too late.

That’s why diagnosing illness quickly—well before it takes firm root—is so essential for health. Treatment of a few smaller cancer cells is infinitely easier than treating a tumor—or, worse, a cancer that’s already metastasized and is spreading through your body.

So it’s incredibly important to know the earliest warning signs—and to get proactive.

Watch For Change

The first thing I tell my patients is to immediately tell me if they notice any change in their bodies.

Now, it’s easy to go overboard with this. A hypochondriac can see any change as death descending.

There’s no need to be alarmist. Waking up with a sore throat and a cough is more likely to be a cold than something more malignant.

But persistent change—like a cough that never goes away—is reason for worry.

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Chronic Inflammation Decoded

Some of the symptoms I’m most wary about:

  • Persistent, unexplained fatigue. If you’ve a condition that can cause fatigue, like clinical depression, then don’t be as alarmed. But if there’s no obvious underlying condition, get yourself checked out.
  • Unexplained bleeding, wherever it may be. Hemorrhoids can cause bleeding, but so can colon cancer. Find out which it is.
  • Discoloration, no matter where. You probably know to watch out for splotches of color in your skin, which could be melanoma. But if your overall pallor changes, that can be a sign that one or more of your organs aren’t doing their job. The most common example: a poorly-functioning liver can cause your skin to take on a yellow tinge.
  • Long-term bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or abdominal pain. You should investigate any problems in your digestive system.
  • Any unexplained pain. Pain is your body telling you something is wrong. Listen to it.
  • Anything that’s new and unexplained. New symptoms—even those that aren’t painful or inconvenient—are warnings that something has changed inside your body. It could be natural—like menopause, or part of the expected aging process. But you owe it to your health to make sure you know what changes are happening, and why.

How To Follow Up On A Warning Sign

If you’ve got an unexplained change, you should immediately go see your doctor for a work-up.

In my practice, I always assume cancer until I can rule it out. That’s because cancer is so common, so deadly, and the prognosis changes so drastically, depending on when you find it.

The first step for me is most often a blood screen, looking for chemical signals of stress.

The most common of these is CRP—a chemical that’s present in the blood when your body is experiencing inflammation. The presence of CRP doesn’t necessarily mean cancer—something else could be causing the inflammation.

But chronic CRP always means something is wrong, and you should rule out cancer before anything else.

Your age doesn’t matter—I’ve had plenty of patients in their 30s who didn’t show many symptoms, but did indeed have cancer.

Also, you shouldn’t assume that your doctor is looking out for this. Many do screen for CRP in normal bloodwork—but not all. Make sure you insist on including CRP in your bloodwork.

And some doctors won’t see elevated levels of CRP as a reason for further tests. But they absolutely are.

For my patients, if I see chronically-elevated levels of CRP, I order an oncoblot.

An oncoblot is a test that specifically looks for the enox2 protein, which is produced by malignant cancer cells. If it comes up positive, then it’s time to locate the source of the cancer.

Likewise, I check for CTC—circulating tumor cells. These are the orphan cancer cells that are thrown off by the parent cancer cells in a tumor.

The bad news is, you can have CTC or enox2 proteins in your body for years, and never know it.

The goods news is, if you ask for and get the correct tests, you can find these problems early.

And, best of all, if you find cancer early, you’ve got an excellent chance of beating it back before it can do you real damage.

Don’t assume that your doctor is doing all of this for you, behind the scenes. Odds are good they aren’t—or are only covering a partial list.

So you need to be proactive. Listen to your body, and when it puts out a warning signal, don’t delay. Get the tests you need, so that you’ll know to get the treatment you need, if necessary.

The faster you discover the problem, the more likely you’ll beat it.

References

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