Dogs have an incredibly sensitive sense of smell. A new study has shown that trained dogs can use their highly evolved sense of smell to pick out blood samples from people with cancer with almost 97% accuracy.
The dog is man’s best friend. No one denies that. These animals not only keep company to their owners but, in some cases, they can also be another tool for their cure if their owner is ill. With numerous scientific studies and reports signaling the incredible diagnostic abilities of dogs, cancer enters into the category of diseases capable of being diagnosed by these lovely companions.
In fact, the “olfactory powers” of dogs are more than known and proven, mainly when these are used to detect explosives, drugs, or gas leaks. Such is the “superpower” of dogs that some public health systems have incorporated cancer screening tests with dogs because of their great reliability.
Can Dogs Actually Detect Cancer in Humans?
For several decades, studies have described how properly trained dogs can signal with high accuracy patients with cancers, such as lung, bladder, ovarian, breast, and prostate by sniffing their body, urine, sweat, as well as breathing and even their blood.
As with other diseases, cancer leaves specific traces or scents in the body and body fluids of human beings. Cancer cells and healthy cells affected by cancer produce and release these odor trails medically known as “volatile organic compounds”. Due to their incredibly developed olfactory system, dogs are able to detect these particles when present in the organisms of those affected. In addition, each type of cancer has its own nanoparticles, whose smell is detectable by dogs.
When dogs are properly trained, they are not only able to pick up these odor trails, but also alert people to the presence of a tumor. Dogs trained to enhance these qualities are known as medical detection dogs.
Regarding the types of cancer, it has been proven that trained dogs can detect colorectal cancer with high levels of accuracy by sniffing out people’s breath and watery stools, even at early stages. In addition, the presence of regional inflammation or non-cancerous disease does not appear to affect dogs’ ability to detect malignant cells.
Something similar happens with lung cancer, as dogs have the ability to detect it through the patient’s breath. Certain scientific studies revealed that medical detection dogs have a high success rate in distinguishing between the breath of people with and without lung cancer.
In the case of ovarian cancer, they detect the tumor from blood samples, and prostate cancer is perceived by sniffing a man’s urine. But it doesn’t end there, because it is also known that dogs trained only to detect breast cancer are also able to detect melanoma and lung cancer, which means that there must be a common smell signature in the different types of cancer.
Using these animals for cancer diagnosis means using a non-invasive and low-risk method to do so, offering significant advantages because they:
- Are mobile.
- Provide quick results.
- Have the ability to trace a scent back to its source.
Additionally, they also have the potential to be used in patient care settings or in laboratories to identify cancer in tissue samples from people with suspected cancer, without the need for the patient to be present. With this in mind, this news requires further research if the effectiveness and reliability of canine cancer detection are meant for it to become a medium-term standard for the benefit of human health, something really worth discovering, especially when considering the important medical significance that early cancer detection provides.