Dog's can detect cancer in humans!

Published: 20th August 2007
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Dogs can detect cancer in humans!

Yes the title says it all. Seem a little far fetched(no pun intended) for you? More and more stories of dogs sniffing out cancer in their owners are coming to light. Take for instance Steve Werner's story back in 2006. Steve had suspected his health was in trouble even before Wrigley, his golden retriever, started sniffing and sniffing around him. Steve had symptoms of ringing in his ears but his doctor couldn't find anything and all of the tests came back negative. Back at home Wrigley would curl up to Steve as she always did but this time she would constantly turn and begin sniffing at his right ear over and over. Steve thought nothing more then just a friendly little sniff but after 5 straight days of Wrigley sniffing at his right ear he thought something might be going on. One night while watching TV, a news story came on about cancer sniffing dogs caught his attention. Could it be that Wrigley could smell trouble with Steve? Taking no chances, Steve went back to his doctor where an MRI of his head revealed a golf ball sized tumor in the inner canal of his right ear. Steve had a rare nonmalignant tumor called acoustic schwannoma. If not caught in time, it could have caused a stroke or permanent facial paralysis. He underwent surgery in February and is recovering at home.

Because of their keen sense of smell, dogs have long been used to sniff out cadavers, bombs, guns and illegal drugs, among other things. In the medical world, dogs have been used to detect impending epileptic seizures or identify tuberculosis in undiagnosed patients. With the success that they are seeing with dogs, researchers have moved on to cancer. "A couple preliminary studies suggest that a dog's nose is extremely sensitive at detecting certain chemicals that make up the constituents of a cancer cell," said Dr. Ted Gansler, director of medical content in health information for the American Cancer Society. "New research suggests that cancerous cells emit chemicals not found in otherwise healthy tissue. Certain types of solid tumors of the prostate, breast, lung and bladder have been found to discharge volatile or aerosolized compounds such as formaldehyde, benzene and alkanes. A study in the British Medical Journal in 2004 concluded that dogs could be trained to detect bladder cancer on the basis of urine odor alone.

Different breeds have been used to be trained for these studies including labs,poodles,beagles,cocker spaniels and mutts. Nicholas Broffman, executive director of the Pine Street Foundation in California, which published a study on cancer-detecting dogs last month, found the Wrigley tale intriguing. "That's a very common story," he said. "That's one of the reasons we did this research, because we've heard all these stories and we wanted to do a double-blind study to test the idea. In its study published in a cancer journal, researchers collected breath samples in plastic tubes from 83 healthy volunteers, 55 lung cancer patients and 31 breast cancer patients. The tubes were numbered and placed in plastic boxes and presented to the dogs, five at a time. If the dog detected cancer, it was trained to sit or lie down. Researchers determined that the dogs were accurate 99 percent of the time in detecting lung cancer and 88 percent of the time in detecting breast cancer. "We set out to see if cancer has a smell and if people with cancer have a different smell than people without cancer," Broffman said. "We were impressed with how well the dogs did."
While it's unclear if dog's really have the capability to detect cancer, it's not hard to imagine the possibility. It is said that dogs have more then 5 times the capability of smell compared to humans so is it really that hard to believe that they are smelling something we can't? With the new possibilities and promise, dogs are proving to us on a daily basis, they are solidifying their spot as man's best friends.

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