Cancer Sniffing Dog

The concept of a cancer sniffing dog might sound a little far-fetched to some, but studies have shown that the presence of cancer does indeed leave a chemical signature on human breath.

This signature allows dogs to detect cancer in humans by scent alone, something many people might consider extraordinary.

The discovery was made recently, when several trained dogs were given the task of sniffing out breast and lung cancer in a group of patients. Shockingly, the results of the dogs' diagnoses were between 88 and 99 percent accurate; the number of false positives reported were considerably lower than those yielded by CT scans.

Interesting though it may be, however, the purpose of these tests wasn't to see if dogs were good at sniffing out illnesses. Rather, it was to see if there was a definite chemical marker for cancer in humans. However, the results indicate that technology still has quite a way to go in order to be as accurate as possible when diagnosing cancer.

It's common knowledge that the canine sense of smell is much stronger than that of humans. Some even say that dogs' noses are up to a thousand times more sensitive than humans' are. The human body has about 5 million olfactory receptor cells lining the inside of the nose.

Dogs, by contrast, have over 220 million of these very same cells. All things considered, the idea of a cancer sniffing dog isn't really that strange, and many researches think that this superior sense of smell gives dogs great potential as weapons against cancer.

Scientists think that by training dogs to detect lung cancer by smelling the breath of patients, we can make a lot more progress in combating the illness. By having the disease diagnosed by a trained dog, first aid can potentially be administered before the cancer has the opportunity to spread and threaten the victim's life.

A scientist named Dr. Thorsten Walles conducted the initial test in Gerlingen, Germany at Schillerhoehe Hospital. Only four dogs were used during the experiment: an Australian Shepherd, a pair of German Shepherds, and a Labrador Retriever.

Cancer patients were asked to breathe into glass tubes, which contained fleece so that they could capture the odors of the organic compounds that were theorized to signal the presence of lung cancer. Astoundingly, all four dogs were able to detect the presence of lung cancer in the breath samples of seventy-one out of a hundred human patients. The cancer sniffing dog diagnoses were also able to identify 93 percent of the cancer-free breath samples, surprising many with their incredibly accuracy.

Other studies have shown that dogs are just as good at detecting bladder and colon cancer. It has also been reported that they're able to sniff out low levels of blood sugar in people with diabetes. On the downside, Dr. Walles also noted that because dogs don't have an advanced way of communicating with humans, it would be difficult to use them for the purpose of finding out exactly what kind of cancer a patient has.

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