Can Dogs Smell Cancer?

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Dogs are a human’s best friend. They serve as companions and even protectors of their human masters most of the time. However, did you know that your friendly canine has exciting abilities to help you save your life as well? Though there are many questions acquainted with the capabilities whether can animals smell diseases, we will throw some light on – can dogs smell cancer?

Can Dogs Smell Cancer

Can Dogs Smell Cancer?

Yes, dogs can smell cancer. Cancer is one of those diseases that your dog can detect through the power of smelling. Dogs have highly sensitive smell receptors to detect cancers even at a very early stage.

How Can Dogs Smell Cancer?

How Can Dogs Smell CancerHumans being afflicted with cancer can smell the disease through their breaths at the later stages of the disease. A dog can smell several diseases that may be afflicting you or anyone who comes near them.

Hence, there is no reason why dogs could not sense cancer. Dogs are blessed with super sensitive smell receptors and can detect cancer even if it is on its stage zero. Actually, no one and nothing has detected stage zero cancer other than dogs so far.

It was found out through research and studies that cancerous cells have different metabolic waste products compared to healthy cells in the body. The smell is too strong and different that dogs can detect it even at its early stage. Dogs can smell in the different chemical traces in parts per trillion.

In fact, dogs can detect cancer even just through sniffing skin lesions too. Also, a study shows dogs can detect prostate cancer through smelling the patient’s urine. And they can even smell cancer through a human’s breath too!

During a 2011 research, which was published in the journal Gut, a Labrador Retriever was trained in cancer detection and was able to identify 91% of the breath samples correctly and 97% stool samples accurately from affected patients with colon cancer.

Research & Studies: Can Dogs Smell Cancer?

Despite the fact that the first indication that dogs can detect cancer were published in a medical journal — The Lancet (back in 1989), studies and researches about these remains scarce in the following decades. However, there were notable studies and researches done during the 21st century to prove that dogs are great and useful when it comes to detecting the said disease.

If you still don’t believe that dogs can indeed smell and detect cancers, there are different studies and researches to prove that it is true. Here are some studies that have proven the power of dogs in cancer detection:

  • British Medical Journal published a study conducted in Amersham, England. In this study, researchers tried to see if they can train dogs to detect bladder cancer just by sniffing urine odor. The dogs who are respondents of the said study were able to identify bladder cancer through urine at 41%.
  • Doctor Armand Cognetta from Tallahassee, a melanoma expert, conducted research to see if dogs can detect skin cancer. The doctor even asked a dog trainer for some help, and they trained the dog to sniff skin cancer. The dog they used in the study, George, was able to identify melanoma at a 99% success rate. Also, George detected malignant melanoma lesions from those benign ones successfully in patients.
  • European Respiratory Journal published a study of dogs being able to sniff and detect cancer at an almost perfect rate. The study used four dogs of different breeds: 1 Australian Shepherd, 1 Labrador and 2 German Shepherds. The dogs correctly identified 71 lung cancer patients out of 100 respondents. They have also ruled out 372 people out of 400 respondents who were not known to have the disease. The rate of false positives in this study is very low at only 7%.
  • Another study in 2011 showed that lung cancer was identified through using breath samples at 71% sensitivity and 93% specificity.
  • A study in Milan conducted by the colleagues of Gianluigi Taverna of Humanitas Research Hospital showed promising results too. They took urine samples from 320 men having prostate cancer and from 357 without it. The 320 men have different stages of prostate cancer from low-risk to high-risk tumors, while those from the non-prostate cancer group have other known diseases, which also include other types of cancer. The researchers used two dogs for this study, which resulted in a 98% accuracy rate for each of them when they took the test together. This study was then reported to the American Urological Association’s yearly meeting.
  • News & World Report also published a study where a black lab named Marine, could sense colon cancer 25% better than the usual routine fecal occult blood tests. Marine was able to identify early stage signs of cancer and its advanced malignancies with an accuracy rate of 97%. The study used 200 humans who are suffering from the disease.
  • Pine Street Foundation also conducted their study where they used five trained scent dogs of different breeds: 3 Labrador Retrievers and 2 Portuguese Water Dogs. The study made use of breath samples of 55 lung cancer patients, 31 breast cancer patients and 83 healthy individuals. The trained dogs were able to identify breast and lung cancer with approximately 90% accuracy and at all stages of the disease.

There are a lot of published studies and researches, which prove that dogs can indeed help detect cancer through breathing samples, which lead doctors and scientists to try to develop a breathalyzer test to imitate the dog’s ability of cancer detection. Currently, there is a basic breathalyzer, which changes its colors based on the compounds present in the breath, which indicates cancer.

What Are The Applications Of These Studies?

If these studies produce more positive results, there can be a lot of benefits for cancer patients. One of the applications of these studies is for dogs to be used as part of patient care. While some others recommended that these dogs should be confined to laboratories where the presence of gas chromatography can be used to separate, the compounds a dog can identify when it comes to cancer detection.

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