Dogs That Smell Cancer: How Effective Are They? [Video]

Dogs that smell cancer are getting their moment to shine in a clinical trial in Britain. One of the dogs being studied in order to determine if they really can smell cancer is Lucy. Lucy is a mix of Labrador and Irish water spaniel. According to a report by CNN, Lucy has an accuracy rate of 95 percent in detecting kidney, bladder, and prostate cancer.

The British group that is holding the clinical trial is Medical Detection Dogs. This group specializes in using dogs in medicine. Lucy is just one of seven other dogs that will be used to use their sense of smell in trying to detect cancer in 3,000 urine samples. The urine samples have been collected by Britain’s National Health Service. The set up of this study will be to have eight urine samples. One of the samples will be from a person who does have cancer.

Claire Gust, CEO of Medical Detection Dogs, knows first hand that dogs can smell cancer. Claire states that her dog was the first indicator that something was wrong.

“She kept staring at me and lunging into my chest. It led me to find a lump. Had it not been drawn to my attention by Daisy, I’m told my prognosis would have been very poor.”

Gust is hopeful that this medical trial will be another one of the many to prove the ability of dogs to smell cancer. It is her hope that in the future, dogs will be utilized by doctors along with other diagnostic tests to test patients for cancer.

The concept of dogs being able to smell cancer is a relatively new one. The first report of such a scenario came only 26-years ago. A patient was prompted to see a doctor due to the fact that their dog would not leave a skin alone. During testing, the lesion on the skin was confirmed to be cancer. This was reported in the British Medical Journal in 1989. Ever since this account was published, studies have been done and have concluded that dogs can smell cancer.

How does a dog’s sense of smell work?

The sense of smell in dogs is aided by the 300 million sensors that they have in their noses. Humans only have five million of these sensors. Dogs also have a secret weapon deep inside of their nose that is known as Jacobson’s organ. This special organ is found in some amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. The main purpose of Jacobson’s organ was used to determine when other animals were ready to mate. The organ is sensitive to heavy airborne odors. Certain types of cancers emit these odors.

With all the studies that have been done that show a dogs ability to smell cancer, why have they not been utilized? Doctor Sheryl Gabram of Emory University conducted a study in which a machine was used to detect cancer in a patient just from detecting molecules in the person breath. Gabram published her results and tried to get funding for her diagnostic tool. She was unable to find anyone to fund her endeavor. Gabram believes that it has been hard to explain how smelling cancer could have a commercial use.

“It would need a lot of years of study and a lot of development. It’s still far from that. People just thought it was too massive to embark on. It’s too bad, too. I think it’s an area of research that’s still promising.”

Do you think dogs being able to smell cancer should be utilized by doctors?

[Image Via YouTube]