The detection of cancer at an early stage is often significant in the successful treatment of the disease. Tumor cells have been reported to generate unique cancer volatile organic compound (VOC) profiles which can reflect the disease conditions. The detection and analysis of VOC biomarkers from exhaled breath has been recognized as a new frontier in cancer diagnostics and health inspections owing to its potential in developing rapid, noninvasive, and inexpensive cancer screening tools. To detect specific VOCs of low concentrations from exhaled breath, and to enhance the accuracy of early diagnosis, many breath collection and analysis approaches have been developed. This paper will summarize and critically review the exhaled-breath VOC-related sampling, collection, detection, and analytical methods, especially the recent development in VOC sensors. VOC sensors are commonly inexpensive, portable, programmable, easy to use, and can obtain data in real time with high sensitivities. Therefore, many sensor-based VOC detection techniques have huge potential in clinical point-of-care use.
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