November 20, 2023

What Does Cancer Breath Smell Like?

If you are concerned about cancer, there are many questions that run through your mind. One that often comes up is, “What does cancer breath smell like?”

Bad Breath Isn't Always a Sign of Cancer

The good news is that the vast majority of bad breath is not caused by cancer or its treatment. Instead, it is often a sign of other conditions or infections.

For example, a foul odor to the breath can be a sign of urinary tract infection. Other times, it is a sign of sinus congestion or a bacterial infection in the nose.

Another condition that can cause a foul odor is chronic kidney failure. In this case, waste products (urea and creatine) build up in the bloodstream rather than leaving the body in urine. This can lead to a severe medical condition called uremia, and it will require immediate care from your doctor.

Other disorders that can cause a foul odor to the breath include liver disease, pancreatic problems and certain types of lung diseases such as pneumonia, emphysema and tuberculosis. Usually, these conditions have other symptoms such as fever, coughing and chest pain, so it is important to see your doctor if you are experiencing them.

Dogs can smell some volatile organic compounds (VOC) that are released by cancer cells and not by healthy cells. However, this research is not meant to be used as a diagnostic tool, since it is likely that we will need a better artificial smell detector before that can happen.


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