Early Cancer Detection With A Dog’s Wet Nose

2011-02-10 | |
Last updated: 2011-02-10

To maximize the odds of surviving cancer, early diagnosis is key. Detection of cancer in its early stages limits the ability of the cancer cells to metastasize or spread while also limiting the damage done by the rapidly increasing number of malignant cells. In many cases, however, patients with early stage cancer do not show symptoms, which makes early detection difficult. At the same time, even if symptoms are present, many of our detection technologies also fail to accurately detect these cancers when they are most treatable.

While researchers are making progress in detecting the characteristic airborne chemicals that result from some cancers, most of their techniques pale in comparison to the ability of the canine nose. Although the ability of tracking dogs to find a lost child, human remains or to track a criminal is well known, the abilities of dogs to detect illness are equally remarkable. In particular, the ability of trained dogs to detect a number of cancers offers hope for early detection.

What Cancers Can Dogs Detect?

Among the top 5 deadliest cancers, the pancreatic, lung, breast, ovarian and colorectal forms, survival depends heavily on early detection. For those with early stage lung cancer who receive treatment, 88% will be alive after 10 years according to research in the the New England Journal of Medicine. At the same time, the survival of those with mid-stage lung cancer, is only two years or less. Similarly, for those who actually show symptoms of pancreatic cancer before receiving treatment, only 1 in 25 will be alive after 5 years.

Sniffing Out Ovarian Cancer

With these sorts of grim statistics, the use of dogs to detect cancer is an intriguing idea for advancing early detection and treatment. To that end, researchers from the University Hospital in Goteborg used trained dogs to attempt to detect Ovarian Cancer in tissue samples. They found that the dogs could detect early stage Ovarian Cancer and were able to discern this type of cancer from related cancers such as Cervical Cancer and cancers of the uterus. The dogs were more than 97% accurate in the detection of this cancer.

On The Scent Of Breast Cancer

In other attempts at early detection of the most deadly cancers, dogs smelling the breath of women were able to detect 88% of breast cancer cases. The study by the Pine Street Foundation and the University of California trained common dogs over several weeks for this purpose. The dogs were able to detect breast cancer in even the early stages.

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Category: Disease Prevention, General Health, Medical Research

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