Breast cancer detection is often done inside hospital laboratories, but do you know that it might start as early as inside your home? You read that right. Studies are telling us that dogs – our ever-loyal pets – can actually be used to detect breast cancer.
Dogs detect breast cancer
Clinical trials are being done by scientists in the United Kingdom have dogs detect breast cancer, and this is done by having women go through a specially designed testing method. In this testing method, women breathe into a tube, which will then be sniffed by a highly trained dog. From these breath samples, dogs detect breast cancer. While the accuracy of the detection still remains to be studied, when proven, this method is seen to revolutionize the way we diagnose not just breast cancer but perhaps cancer of all sorts.
Why are dogs able to do this?
It is believed that because of their very strong sense of smell (around one part per trillion), they are able to sniff volatile substances that are emitted by cancerous cells.
This study actually started as an offshoot from something similar that dogs were already doing in the field of medicine. Dogs at the Medical Detection Dogs facility in Buckinghamshire were already detecting another form of cancer – prostate cancer in men. They were able to do this by sniffing urine samples, and have been proven to be quite accurate.
As of the moment, the dogs have a 93% detection accuracy, which is actually even better than current blood tests. To signal that they have found or detected cancer in a certain sample, the dog will simply stare at it intently.
One of the dogs in the facility, Daisy, began alerting the institution’s founder – Dr. Claire Guest by constantly jumping on her chest. This prompted her to have herself checked, and eventually found out that she also had an early tumor found in her chest. From this development, six more dogs will be trained to sniff breast cancer from breath samples, and thus allow the breast cancer detection trial to commence.
The dogs in the charity are working breed of dogs such as spaniels and Labradors, who work for treats and biscuits and have generally happy dispositions. All the dogs live in real homes with families taking care of them. They come to the lab during the day to work, and go back home to their owners at the end of the day.