Canines can provide long-lasting companionship, sniff out drugs, and help aid law enforcement in solving crimes, but can their fascinating abilities go a step further into the world of medicine?
Can their sixth sense detect cancer in humans before doctors find it? According to a report from iNews, dogs are using their complex sense of smell to help doctors find malignant tumors before they reach a terminal stage.
Canines contain 200 million olfactory cells in their noses says, Global Animal, compared to a human’s 5 million, which can be used to smell a malignant disease through their runny snouts. The report also describes how scientists have trained dogs to utilize their sensitive noses to sniff out lung cancer in a more recent study published in 2011.
— i newspaper (@theipaper) December 5, 2016
Furthermore, there have been various scientific tests conducted on our furry friends that support the belief in cancer-sniffing dogs. In 2004, James C. Walker, of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University, and his fellow colleagues had trained two dogs to detect melanoma tissue samples concealed on the skin of the healthy volunteers. They employed the same methods that experts use in training dogs to sniff out drugs and bombs.
An article from CBS News showcases a few methods of training involving Michael McCulloch, who conducts his work at Pine Street Foundation, a nonprofit group founded in San Anselmo, California. The group’s primary goals are working with cancer patients and their decisions of treatment.
McCulloch and his team trained five dogs that had only the basic obedience training to smell the difference in breath samples of people without and with lung cancer. The human volunteers had to breathe into tubes that would trap their breaths for the dogs to smell. The “tail-waggers” were rewarded with treats if they were to deliver precise results. McCulloch is optimistic that in the future, dogs will replace high costs of invasive procedures to detect cancer.
“Who will win out in the end: Is the dog more accurate or is the laboratory more accurate? Is it the lab or the Lab?”
McCulloch adds that dogs would do a much better job at screening potential cancer patients with proper training. It affords dogs the remarkable ability to practice early cancer detection to improve the survival rate of those diagnosed with the often-deadly disease.
— K9Active.co.uk (@K9Active) November 3, 2016
After three weeks of training, the dogs and the team conducted their experiment, where each dog was sent into a room to get a smell of some breath samples. A few had samples from people recently diagnosed with breast cancer and lung cancer, and the other samples were from cancer-free volunteers.
Since there are chemicals in chemotherapy treatments, these tests need only newly diagnosed patients that haven’t had any treatments at the time they gave their breath samples; the chemicals would alter the dog’s senses to smelling the isolated disease.
As of today, the cancer-detecting dogs are accepted for the NHS trial, an approval made by Milton Keynes of University Hospital. Reportedly, their trained dogs have detected prostate tumors in urine samples for 93 percent of cases. Researchers hope the trials foster changes in the way practitioners manage cancer screenings and change the way people view dogs tenfold.
Studies like the ones mentioned are so remarkable because it reminds us of how special our Frisbee-fetching pals are and what they can do with their long snouts.
Dogs are incredibly inspiring and are in a fast race to compete with scientists; the compounds that are in the cancer samples that the dogs detect can be used to create an artificial sniffer, so to speak.
Remember that everything you’ve just read today the next time you tell your dog to bring you your newspaper, as he may very well have news for you that the papers and doctors don’t know about yet!
[Featured Image by monkeybusinessimages/iStock]