What sounds like science fiction may become a reality.

It’s a call women hope they won’t get: There’s something suspicious-looking in your mammogram, and you need further testing. Maybe you need an ultrasound, or maybe you need a biopsy. One thing’s for sure — it’s stress-inducing.

So what if all that anxiety could be wiped away by taking a simple breath test that told you whether you need further testing for breast cancer? That’s what an open clinical trial at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center is trying to figure out.

The study is exploring the effectiveness of the BreathLink™ device, which captures a two-minute sample of your breath and provides immediate results on abnormalities that could indicate breast cancer. If proven effective, the test would be used in conjunction with mammograms to rule out false-positive tests, sparing women the pain, cost and anxiety of unnecessary biopsies.

The noninvasive testing device collects, concentrates and analyzes the organic compounds in a person’s breath within minutes. While the experimental device can’t diagnose disease, it can indicate if someone should undergo further testing.

“Diagnosing breast cancer requires the utmost vigilance, but we need to temper this vigilance with accuracy to prevent unnecessary testing,” said Dr. Linda Hovanessian-Larsen, associate professor of clinical radiology and director of women’s imaging at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Larsen is leading the trial at USC Norris and focuses much of her research on improving the accuracy and efficiency of breast cancer diagnostic techniques.

USC Norris is the first of five cancer centers in the United States participating in the trial and the only center in California. The trial is open to women who have a breast-related concern that requires mammography. This includes patients who require short-term follow-up or additional workup from screenings, as well as women who exhibit clinical symptoms such as a breast lump.

By Mary Dacuma

For more information about how to participate in this study, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) and ask about clinical trials. To see other clinical trials at Keck Medicine of USC, click here.