Fact: Dogs can smell cancer.
A charity called ‘Medical Detection Dogs’ is undertaking the first clinical trial looking at using sniffer dogs to do something a little more holistic than seeking out drugs and sausages at Manchester Airport.
The procedure is simple – wee in a pot, pooch gives it a sniff and if they sit down you have over a 90% chance of having prostate cancer. Men everywhere should be rejoicing: current detection of prostate cancers relies on tests with high false positive rates. This can lead to men undergoing unnecessary exploratory surgery (which carries complication risks of erectile dysfunction and incontinence), but the use of detection dogs as a second line of testing before surgery could help to reduce the damage caused by unneeded procedures. It’s not just for men though – early reports suggest that the dogs may be other types of cancers too, including breast and lung.
Their secret is a highly tuned sense of smell (about 100,000 times more sensitive than humans). Cancer cells show altered metabolism to normal cells, and so produce different waste products. These waste products are then released in the patient’s urine, breath or blood and dogs can be trained to pick up their characteristic odour to help diagnose early and elusive cancers. Yet more proof that dogs > cats.
‘Another one of Mr Shaunak’s Little Bites of Science’
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