How Dogs Sniff Cancer

Did you know dogs can diagnose cancer at its earliest stage even before any devices can? It has a great potential as it could lead to new non-invasive and cheap methods to reveal the disease.

Dogs’ olfactory receptors are 10,000 times more sensitive than those of people. Therefore, they are also very sensitive to odours we don’t even notice. According to a study published last year at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, dogs are capable of detecting cancer from blood samples with an accuracy of up to 97 %. This method could therefore become a new screening method to detect cancer.

Even though there is still no cure for cancer, its early detection equals to the highest chances of survival. In the above-mentioned study, four beagles were trained using a clicker to recognize the blood of patients with malignant lung cancer among more blood samples.

In the Czech Republic, the dogs have been trained for this since 2016. However, the Czech Centre of Signalling Animals that came up with the project has problems because of the lack of samples as well as money. You can support their effort on a Czech crowdfunding website Startovač and donate money for building a new centre that would be used to train dogs in recognizing cancer.

The dog detectors include individuals of various breeds as well as mongrels. They’re success rate of detecting cancer is similar to that of American dogs. It is somewhere around 90 %. Recently, one dog there was able to detect cancer of a volunteer even three months before a special imaging technique which is usually used for that could find it.
The currently available research from the Czech Republic focused on detecting five types of cancer: lung cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer and urinary bladder cancer. However, the researchers would like to include even more types.

And how do dogs learn to detect cancer? First, they practice sniffing the containers with samples and then they learn to recognize those of healthy people and cancer patients. A dog trained like this has to pass an aptitude test that will define its class of diagnostic performance. Later, it has to take a tough test at the presence of an arbitration committee
comprised of experts from various fields. After that, the dog can start its work.

According to my opinion, this is definitely something worth supporting. I hope this method of cancer detection will soon be a common part of diagnosis and will help many people in their treatment. What do you think about it? Would you trust the results of dog diagnosis?

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