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Can your pet Diag”nose” Cancer?"
Can your pet Diag”nose” Cancer? To a dog, healthy people smell normal. However, dogs can recognize the “odor signature” of cancer. It is not limited to any particular type, location, or stage of cancer. It is not limited to any breed of dog, and they can smell VOC’s through clothing.

An episode of “60 Minutes” featured a woman from England whose dog kept sniffing a mole on her leg. When she had it checked by a physician, it was a malignant melanoma. After surgery, the dog lost interest in her “mole.” During the interview, the reporter learned of sixteen similar cases at that facility. One was a woman involving breast cancer. In that case, three months after treatment, the dog once again alerted its owner. The cancer had recurred.

The quest for explanation started with a study, which established by scientific method that the dogs’ accuracy was clearly not by chance alone.

National Geographic featured a study with household dogs that could detect a difference in the breath of lung and breast cancer patients compared to healthy controls. Their accuracy was 88-97 percent of the time, even when the cancer was in the early stages. Anderson Cancer Center commented that there are no lab tests with results as good as this.

In one study, urine samples were collected from people with known bladder cancer and from people without bladder cancer. These healthy patients were tested rigorously including ultrasound and even cystoscopy to ensure they were indeed healthy. The dogs were trained to sit when they smelled urine from the cancer group and to ignore the healthy specimens. The two groups of urine samples were then presented to the dogs in random order. The dogs were able to distinguish between the two groups. There was one healthy sample, however, that all the dogs unequivocally reacted to as if it were from a cancer patient. The researchers informed that patient’s physician. The physician ordered an MRI and found that his patient had a carcinoma, normally found only in the bladder, located instead in his kidney higher up the urinary tract.

When a cancer develops, it is abnormal tissue. Such tumors liberate atypical substances. With the use of research instruments called spectrometers and gas chromatographers, the composition of these compounds have been identified. They are called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). Examples of cancer related VOC’s are ethane, benzene derivatives, and formaldehyde.

Melanoma is superficial but what about a tumor deep within a breast or an ovarian tumor even deeper in the body? VOCs accumulate at the site of illness and enter the blood stream. They travel in the blood and then are filtered into distant portals as sweat, breath, and urine.

People cannot smell these substances in the trace amounts in which they occur. However, dogs can detect scents in the magnitude of parts per trillion; that’s up to 100,000 times better than humans. The region of their brain devoted to smell is four times bigger than that of humans.

To a dog, healthy people smell normal. However, dogs can recognize the “odor signature” of cancer. It is not limited to any particular type, location, or stage of cancer. It is not limited to any breed of dog, and they can smell VOC’s through clothing.

Your dog sniffing a visitor to your home is not alarming. However, your dog knows you, and it notices when your smell is different. The difference may be merely new cologne. However, the research makes one marvel at their ability to sense other things that modern science has yet to catch up to. It can cause us to wonder what else the family pet may know.

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"Can your pet Diag”nose” Cancer?""
   authored by:
Dr. Musico was born in Beverly Hills, CA. His undergraduate work at USC included shark research in the Pacific and cancer research in Los Angeles. His clerkship included surgery in London, medicine in New York, and tropical medicine in the Windward I...

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