Could Dogs Sniff Out Cancer?

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A woman in the UK was diagnosed with breast cancer after persistent demands to get tested. Demands made by … her dog:

‘Tests found Penny had been smelling and nuzzling at the area where an aggressive tumour was growing.

Sharon, from Newark, Notts, immediately began chemotherapy, and will have the tumour removed in an operation on Monday.

She said: “Penny was pawing me for weeks.

“She would gently paw me as if she was trying to get something out of my left breast, but I ignored it….

…Researchers in Germany last year found that specially-trained dogs could detect a tumour in 71 per cent of patients.

It is thought that tumours produce chemicals, including low concentrations of alkanes and aromatic compounds, which dogs can detect.’

What the dogs appear to respond to is not the cancer itself but the subtle metabolic changes in the cancer sufferer. Cancers produce tiny molecules which are excreted in sweat and urine and are also breathed out. It is believed that dogs can use their acute sense of smell to detect these tiny biochemical changes.

With time, dogs can be taught to sniff for these changes in patients and may one day be used in hospitals in the same way as an X-ray or MRI scan can be used to detect disease.

I say, dogs sure beat a blood test. And more fun to play with, too.

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About Dr Vadim Chelom

Dr Vadim Chelom is a Registered Veterinarian, a writer and an educator

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