Dogs Detecting Cancer: Cancer Sniffing Dogs

Recent studies reveal that certain cancers, namely colon, breast, lung, prostate, ovarian and bladder have been found to emit certain odors. This is caused by the by products of cancer which leads to the presence of volatile substances which can actually rise up as gas. It is because of this smell apparently common to certain strains of cancer that dogs (yes dogs!) are able to detect cancer from certain samples taken from cancer patientsyoung child with cute labrador puppy.

It is a popular fact that dogs have more sensitive sense of smell that humans and most animals. It is because of this ability that these scent dogs (usually Labradors) are able to detect cancer in its early stages. The most common method of colon cancer treatment is a colonoscopy which involves inserting a long tube called a colonoscope into the anus until it reaches the colon while the patient is sedated. The large intestine is inflated with gas while a small camera is all inserted so that the doctor can see better.

A specific study gathered stool and breath samples from 306 individuals: some had colon (or bowel) cancer while others suffered from colorectal ailments (maladies that affect the bowel area such as hemorrhoids) while still others were healthy.

Surprisingly, the scent dogs yielded a 98% accuracy rate in detecting cancer as compared to colonoscopies. They were very sensitive with any “cancer scent” and were even able to differentiate polyps from malignancies (early signs of cancer) when colonoscopies were unable to.

Similar findings were presented by the Department of Surgery at the Postgraduate School of Medicine at Kyushu University in Fukuoka. The lead researcher Dr. Hideto Sonoda headed a study on whether or not odor can be used as basis for colon cancer screening. “Canine scent judgment yielded correct answers for these cancers as well, suggesting that common scents may exist among various cancer types,” he said.

Although using scent dogs may be too expensive for routine tests, the study on cancer-sniffing dogs does prove that odor can be used as a basis for cancer screening and that it is a lot more effective and accurate than traditional methods.

The Colon Rectal Surgery Residency Program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine director Dr. Floriano Marchettian said that “the direction should be to stimulate research in finding the organic compound that the dog reacts to.”

The research is very exciting and although questions still may exist as to how dogs can smell cancer—one thing is certain.  Man’s best friend helps and heals us in many ways.