The title of “Man’s Best Friend” has been bestowed upon dogs for many reasons. They are regularly our constant companions and most loyal fans. They also have been known to bring their owners a comfortable pair of slippers and the day’s newspaper. But could they hold the key to an even more useful trait... can dogs smell cancer?
The canine nose is a finely tuned instrument that has been used in many professional environments from search and rescue to bomb detection. Dogs have the uncanny ability to identify and focus in on specific chemical elements in very small quantities. Research has shown that it might definitely be a possibility for dogs to be trained to detect cancerous cells in humans by using their amazingly accurate sense of smell.
In 2006 the Pine Street Foundation, whose mission is to help people detect and treat many types of cancer as early as possible, conducted a study to gauge the accuracy of the canine olfactory senses in rooting out cancer in humans.
They used 3 Labrador Retrievers (two males and one female) and two Portuguese Water Dogs (one male and one female in their research. These dogs were specifically trained, over a 3 weeks period, to determine whether a patient had lung or breast cancer based solely on their breath.
The study incorporated 86 cancer patients who had just recently been diagnosed with cancer. All of them had yet to undergo any form of treatment. An equal number of completely healthy people were also introduced to provide a control group. Researches took breath samples from all the participants and presented them to the pioneering dogs to determine their ability to sniff out cancer. The dogs were trained to signal when they identified a smell associated with cancer and were rewarded when they did so correctly.
When all was said and done the test dogs came out with flying colors. They were able to accurately identify the patients with cancer about 99% of the time regardless of whether the cancer was in an early or late stage. Can dogs smell cancer? Sure looks like it!
The Pine Street Foundation has now moved on to a project that involves isolating the compounds in a cancer patient’s breath in order to determine which one allows dog’s to detect the ailment. As well as second round of canine research focusing on ovarian cancer is also in the works.
||A dog’s nose is a miraculous tool with many uses that is, on average, tens to hundreds of thousands times stronger and more accurate than that of our own. We are just now beginning to scratch the surface of what these animals can accomplish when given just a little training. The further impact that this ability could have on our lives should only convince even more how special and important our four-legged pals are in this world.
|Russ Barker is very grateful for all the service dogs out there that use their noses for the good of humanity. He came across the question "Can Dogs Smell Cancer?" from one of his readers and decided to jump into the topic head first. Russ writes an interesting regular weekly blog article for the Dog Tag Art Blog. DogTagArt.com is a website formed to inform the world about the importance of properly equipping all pets with up-to-date pet ID tags. To encourage this, and make it a bit more fun for owners, they have created hundreds of unique custom dog tags using state-of-the-art technology which offers unparalled personalization options in a durable high-quality tag.