A review of breath analysis techniques in head and neck cancer

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Cancers of the head and neck region are a severely disabling group of diseases with no method for early detection. Analysis of exhaled breath volatile organic compounds shows promise as biomarkers for early detection and disease monitoring. This article reviews breath analysis in the setting of head and neck cancer, with a practical focus on breath sampling techniques, detection technologies and valid data analysis methods. Title and abstract keyword searches were conducted on PubMed and Embase databases to identify English language studies without a time-period limitation. The main inclusion criteria were human studies comparing head and neck cancer patients to healthy controls using exhaled breath analysis. Multiple breath collection techniques, three major detection technologies and multiple data analysis methods were identified. However, the variability in techniques and lack of methodological standardization does not allow for adequate study replication or data pooling. Twenty-two volatile organic compounds identified in five studies have been reported to discriminate head and neck cancer patients from healthy controls. Breath analysis for detection of head and neck cancer shows promise as a non-invasive detection tool. However, methodological standardization is paramount for future research study design to provide the potential for translating these techniques into routine clinical use.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104654
Number of pages9
JournalOral Oncology
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Biomarker
  • Breath analysis
  • Cancer of head and neck
  • Mass spectrometry


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