Cancer Sniffing Dogs Save Lives

Cancer Sniffing Dogs Save Lives

"Man's best friend" is a phrase referring to domestic dogs, highlighting their close relations, loyalty and companionship with humans. However, this phrase has a truly remarkable twist when that friend is saving your life.

Cancer Sniffing Dog

It is a dog's acute ability to trace scents that has made them so attractive to the medical world.

There is no denying a dog's extraordinary sense of smell. While humans have around 5 million receptors that detect different odors in our noses, dogs have approximately 200 million. It has become more popular and it is a very true fact that dogs can sense abnormal cancer cells through smells emitted by the skin, urine or even in the breath.

When dogs sniff for cancer, they are detecting the chemicals emitted by a tumor. These chemicals are referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOC), and have been found in urine of prostate cancer patients, in the breath of lung cancer patients and colon cancer patients. The most recent findings have increased interest in dog cancer detection research, including efforts to develop devices that can mimic the animal’s sense system.

It is estimated that 233,000 men in the US will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. Although current screening methods for the disease such as digital rectal exams aid early detection, they are not always accurate. But with the help of "man's best friend," a new screening technique could be in the future.

A new study from Italian researchers found that specially trained dogs were able to detect prostate cancer from urine samples with 98% accuracy.

One study revealed that trained detection dogs were able to detect ovarian cancer in tissue and blood samples through sniffing out volatile organic compounds. A study also found that such compounds could also be bio-markers of bladder cancer.

Researchers found that two highly trained dogs were able to detect prostate cancer in urine samples with a combined 98% accuracy.

They found that the dogs were able to detect prostate cancer-specific VOCs in the urine samples with a combined accuracy of 98%. Specificity was 97% accurate while sensitivity to the compounds was 99% accurate.

The first dog's overall accuracy for detecting VOCs was 99%, while specificity was 98%, sensitivity was 100%. The second dog was able to detect VOCs with 97% accuracy, while specificity was 96% accurate and sensitivity was 99% accurate.

The possibility of using dogs to identify cancer is something most would never have considered possible a decade or two ago. It is an interesting concept that man's best friend could help save your life.

Until next time, stay healthy!

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