Dogs may be able to detect prostate cancer with surprising accuracy. A study, which was presented at the 109th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association, suggests dogs can detect prostate cancer with an accuracy of 98 percent.
The research was conducted using 677 volunteers, who were separated into two groups. The first group consisted of those without prostate cancer. The second group included patients with prostate cancer of varying degrees.
Each participant was asked to provide a urine sample, which was introduced to two different dogs. Together, the dogs accurately identified the cancer patients’ urine with an accuracy of 98 percent.
As reported by Orlando Sentinel, the dogs smelled and identified volatile organic compounds, which are present in the urine of prostate cancer patients. The study suggests the dogs detected VOCs, even in smaller amounts.
Researchers note that the dogs were isolated, and other smells were reduced to exclude interference. Doctors are hopeful that dogs will eventually be used as a means of early detection, which is essential for successful treatment.
Although similar research was conducted in 2010, the prior study included only 33 patients.
As their sense of smell is remarkable, dogs have assisted law enforcement officials for many years. However, dogs are also quite useful in the medical field. For patients with disabilities, dogs provide companionship and guidance. For those with epilepsy, dogs can detect seizures before patients notice any physical symptoms.
In addition to detecting prostate cancer, dogs have also proven skill in detecting “malignancies of the breast and lung.” The InSitu Foundation discusses how dogs are trained to recognize cancer:
“Training dogs to smell cancer is done in the same way that bomb and narcotics dogs are trained, pairing the target odor with a high value reward… Cancer samples, disease controls and healthy controls are needed, and the order and specifics of the introduction of cancer through latter stage training is extremely specific, in order for the dog to generalize the cancer scent.”
For centuries, dogs have been known as “man’s best friend.” As they are now being used to diagnose deadly disease, the nickname takes on an entirely new meaning.
Although research has proven that dogs can recognize prostate cancer, patients should not rely on their pets to diagnose or rule out any illness. The studies were performed in a controlled environment with volunteers who were already diagnosed by a medical doctor.
[Image via Shutterstock]